LOGAN, W.Va. – The City of Logan will be joining the neighboring town of Kermit in Mingo County as part of a major lawsuit against manufacturers of opioid pain pills which have become a nightmare of prescription drug abuse and overdoses.
Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti said the town of Logan has been impacted heavily over the years by prescription pain medication abuse just like most other municipalities in the state and it was contacted recently about becoming part of a lawsuit.
“We were contacted three weeks ago,” Nolletti explained. “We recieved a letter from the law offices of Harry F. Bell Jr. about a legal action against pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers.There are many towns in the state that have this problem and they are taking it to the court system.” The much smaller town of Kermit, which is around 30 miles from Logan, recently joined a handful of counties and municipalities that have filed lawsuits against five drug companies they claim fueled the pain pill abuse epidemic across the state, which has hit every town in the coalfields hard. Kermit’s lawsuit was filed in Mingo County Circuit Court in January against Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation, Bergen Drug Corporation, Miami-Luken and HD Smith Corporation as well as the one time owner of a clinic not far from the town on behalf of Kermit Mayor Charles Sparks who was named as the plaintiff.
The clinic’s former owner was reportedly sentenced to two and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges for allegedly operating a pill mill. Recent newspaper and radio stories across the state allege that different drug companies shipped nearly nine million pain pills to pharmacies in Kermit over a two-year period. The town is quite small and has less than 400 residents currently. Over 12 million hydrocodone pills were shipped to Kermit in six years time according to federal statistics. The lawsuit seeks damages for the extreme financial burden suffered by the town. The suit was filed by Truman Chafin’s Law Firm in Williamson which was joined by Charleston lawyers Harry F. Bell Jr., Mark Troy ,John Yanchunis and James Yu.
“We don’t know how this will turn out, but if they get a settlement they will run it by us first before we would decide whether or not to accept it,” noted City Attorney Kendall Partlow.
Previously two large prescription drug distributors agreed to settle a similar lawsuit alleging they shipped excessive amounts of addictive painkillers into the state over several years. Boone Circuit Judge William Thompson disclosed settlement order in December following allegations that the drug wholesalers shipped 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia in six years. During that period 1,728 people died from fatal overdoses on the opioids. The state has settled similar claims against other wholesalers.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Cardinal Health shipped more than 241 million prescription opioid pills to West Virginia over five years — more than double the number of pills distributed by the next largest supplier of pain medications to the state. From 2007 through 2012, the company shipped 85.5 million oxycodone pills and 155.6 million hydrocodone pills to West Virginia.