It wasn’t a coincidence that the corporate suits showed up for the Mingo County Commission meeting last May. On the agenda was a vote about whether the 26,000-person county, deep in West Virginia coal country, should join a lawsuit against the nation’s three major drug distributors for their role in the region’s opioid epidemic. (Collectively, the three companies had distributed 423 million pills in West Virginia over a five-year period.) One of those distributors, $121 billion Cardinal Health (CAH, +0.29%), had three representatives in the audience—one of whom had travelled all the way from Washington DC—“to educate the County Commission” about aspects of opioid litigation in surrounding counties.
That a Fortune 15 corporation would send even one person to such an event says something about the stakes involved in litigation targeting companies in the opioid supply chain. Since then, the stakes have only grown; cases against distributors like Cardinal and opioid manufacturers like Purdue and Teva (TEVA, +2.09%), which are accused of negligence and aggressive sales tactics, have proliferated across the country in recent months. All levels of government, hurting from the toll the public health crisis has had on budgets, are taking action, from municipalities (Kermit, WV; Chicago, Il, Everett, WA) to counties (Mingo in WV; Nassau in NY; Orange in California) to states (Mississippi, Ohio, New Mexico). And that’s just a sampling. There’s also the multi-state investigation into various opioid manufacturers that a bipartisan coalition of 35 state attorney generals launched in June, and Congressional and Senate investigations into the matter underway…Read More