Attorney General Cameron sues CVS for company’s alleged role in Opioid Epidemic

FRANKFORT, Ky.  – Attorney General Daniel Cameron filed a lawsuit against CVS Health for the company’s alleged role in Kentucky’s opioid epidemic.  The lawsuit, filed in Franklin Circuit Court, alleges the company engaged in unlawful business practices and failed to guard against the diversion of opioids, according to press release from Cameron’s office.

“During the height of the opioid epidemic, CVS allowed millions of dosage units of opioids to flood Kentucky’s borders, fueling the crisis and devastating thousands of families and communities across the Commonwealth,” said Attorney General Cameron.  “As both distributor and pharmacy, CVS was in a unique position to monitor and stop the peddling of these highly-addictive drugs from their stores, yet they ignored their own safeguard systems. By bringing this lawsuit on behalf of the people of Kentucky, we are holding CVS accountable for these decisions and for contributing to a man-made crisis that tragically led to the loss of life of thousands of Kentuckians” Cameron said in the release.

According to the release, CVS maintained over 100 separate license numbers in the Commonwealth as a “wholesaler,” “out-of-state pharmacy,” and “retail pharmacy.”  Between 2006 and 2014, CVS pharmacies in Kentucky purchased more than 151 million dosage units of oxycodone and hydrocodone from its own distribution centers and third-party distributors, accounting for nearly 6.1 percent of the total dosage units in the Commonwealth during this time.

One CVS store, located in Perry County, purchased over 6.8 million dosage units of oxycodone and hydrocodone from 2006 to 2014, which was enough opioids for every man, woman, and child in the county to have over 26 pills every year during the same period, according to the release.  A CVS in Crittenden County bought over 2.8 million dosage units of the drugs, enough to supply everyone in the county with over 34 pills every year, according to the release.

The lawsuit argues that because CVS had a dual role in the opioid supply chain as a distributor and pharmacy, the company’s compliance with the law “was vital to safeguard consumers and control the rate of addiction, abuse, and diversion of opioids.”  CVS had access to prescription opioid dispensing data for all of the company’s Kentucky pharmacies, including information revealing the size, frequency, dose, and combinations of prescriptions filled by each pharmacy.

Despite supplying staggering quantities of opioids in Kentucky, CVS reported zero suspicious orders for its Kentucky stores from 2007 to 2014.  The next year, in 2015, the CDC identified Kentucky as having a statistically significant drug overdose death rate increase from 2014 to 2015.  In 2015, drug overdoses accounted for more than 59 percent of Kentucky’s statewide accidental deaths, which is more than motor vehicle accidents, fire, drowning, and gunshot wounds combined.

Leading up to and during the height of the opioid epidemic, CVS also participated in the marketing, advertising, and promotion of opioid products, working with manufacturers like Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals.  The lawsuit states that CVS improperly normalized the widespread use of opioids by participating in these efforts, according to the release.

The lawsuit alleges seven claims against CVS for its role in the opioid epidemic. To view a copy of the complaint, click here.

Attorney General Cameron continues to pursue litigation against Walgreens, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Inc.

Settlement discussions are ongoing with Johnson & Johnson, McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen for failing to maintain effective control over their narcotics, according to the release.  Claims against two other opioid producers in bankruptcy, Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, are progressing toward resolution later this year.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Cameron announced Kentucky would receive $10.8 million from a multistate settlement with McKinsey & Company.