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Missouri expands legal battle against opioid industry

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley has issued subpoenas to three companies that distribute opioids throughout the United States.

The subpoenas were issued to AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson Corporation. As opioid overdoses rise across the country, Hawley is accusing those companies of putting profits ahead of patient health.

“This is how,” said Hawley on Tuesday. “Federal and state laws require these distributors to report any suspicious activity. But among other facts, the sheer volume of opioids that they have delivered to multiple locations is inherently suspicious.”

He continued: “The evidence suggests that these companies chose to look the other way, oversupply pharmacies and other outlets, and make millions of dollars in profits … well, not anymore.”

Hawley said refusal to cooperate could result in lawsuits being filed against the three opioid distributors.

He filed a separate suit in St. Louis in June against three companies that manufacture opioids. And in August issued subpoenas against seven other pharmaceutical corporations.

In response, AmerisourceBergen issued a statement saying it “welcomes the opportunity to engage with Attorney General Hawley and the people of Missouri.”

John Parker of the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, a trade organization that represents AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, said in a statement: “The idea that distributors are solely responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and how it is regulated.”

“Distributors are logistics companies that arrange for the safe and secure storage, transport, and delivery of medicines from manufacturers to pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and others based on prescriptions from licensed physicians,” the statement continued. “We don’t make medicines, market medicines, prescribe medicines, or dispense them to consumers.”

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport

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Marshall Griffin is the Statehouse reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.
Marshall Griffin
St. Louis Public Radio State House Reporter Marshall Griffin is a native of Mississippi and proud alumnus of Ole Miss (welcome to the SEC, Mizzou!). He has been in radio for over 20 years, starting out as a deejay. His big break in news came when the first President Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989. Marshall was working the graveyard shift at a rock station, and began ripping news bulletins off an old AP teletype and reading updates between songs. From there on, his radio career turned toward news reporting and anchoring. In 1999, he became the capital bureau chief for Florida's Radio Networks, and in 2003 he became News Director at WFSU-FM/Florida Public Radio. During his time in Tallahassee he covered seven legislative sessions, Governor Jeb Bush's administration, four hurricanes, the Terri Schiavo saga, and the 2000 presidential recount. Before coming to Missouri, he enjoyed a brief stint in the Blue Ridge Mountains, reporting and anchoring for WWNC-AM in Asheville, North Carolina. Marshall lives in Jefferson City with his wife, Julie, their dogs, Max and Liberty Belle, and their cat, Honey.
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