Kentucky sues drug distributor AmerisourceBergen over opioid epidemic

(Reuters) - Kentucky’s attorney general on Thursday sued AmerisourceBergen Corp, accusing the drug distributor of contributing to opioid abuse in the state by filling suspiciously large or frequent pharmacy orders of prescription painkillers.

The lawsuit by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear was his fourth to date seeking to hold a corporation responsible for its role in the national opioid epidemic. Two prior cases targeted AmerisourceBergen’s main drug distribution competitors.

Those companies were Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp, which with AmerisourceBergen control 85 percent of the U.S. prescription drug market. Beshear in a statement called stopping large supplies of opioids fueling addition a priority.

“One way to do that is to continue to drag these billion-dollar opioid distributors into Kentucky court to seek damages for their irresponsible actions,” he said.

Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hundreds of lawsuits by states, counties and cities have accused drugmakers of pushing addictive painkillers through deceptive marketing and wholesale distributors of failing to report suspicious drug orders.

Thursday’s lawsuit, filed in Floyd County Circuit Court, accused AmerisourceBergen of excessively distributing opioids in Kentucky and of failing to report suspicious orders of those drugs to state and federal authorities.

AmerisourceBergen in a statement said it was dedicated to doing its part to mitigate the diversion of opioids and provides daily reports to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration detailing its distribution orders.

Three other state attorneys general have sued AmerisourceBergen. In January 2017, it agreed to pay $16 million to resolve a lawsuit filed in 2012 by West Virginia’s attorney general claiming it oversupplied opioids in the state.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Richard Chang