Distributor responds to opioid lawsuit
The lawsuit, which officials with the Association of Arkansas Counties filed in March in Crittenden County Circuit Court, aims to prove the roles of drug manufacturers, prescription drug distributors and a handful of Arkansas pharmacies and health care providers in fueling opioid addiction, overdoses and abuse in the state.
By Max Bryan
Southwest Times Record
The role health care distributors play in the over-prescription and abuse of opioids is overstated in a statewide Arkansas lawsuit, a distribution official says.
John Parker, senior vice president of Healthcare Distribution Alliance, said in June that the lawsuit “does not seem to really fundamentally understand” how the pharmaceutical supply chain works in relation to opioid painkillers. The lawsuit contains signatures from every Arkansas county, major city and the state government and alleges wholesale distributors have ensured Arkansas remains well-stocked with prescription opioids.
“We don’t think this litigation, as it relates to us, really focuses on the root causes of the epidemic,” he said. “There are probably better ways to go about this and get to the root of where we came from, how we got here today and the issues that need to be addressed.”
The lawsuit, which officials with the Association of Arkansas Counties filed in March in Crittenden County Circuit Court, aims to prove the roles of drug manufacturers, prescription drug distributors and a handful of Arkansas pharmacies and health care providers in fueling opioid addiction, overdoses and abuse in the state. It lists McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen — distribution companies responsible for the pharmacy supply of about 90 percent of all prescription medicines, all of which are represented by Alliance — as defendants.
“Drug manufacturers and wholesale distributors have ensured that opioid supplies abound in Arkansas and have made it one of the well-stocked states in the country,” the lawsuit states, citing reports from the Drug Enforcement Administration that distributors and manufacturers supplied nearly 2 billion opioid milligrams to Arkansas pharmacies in 2015.
Parker in January said distributors should not be solely held responsible for the number of opioids written. An Alliance news release sent in January to the Times Record after Fort Smith joined the lawsuit cited Parker saying distributors are logistics companies based on prescriptions from licensed physicians.
Parker backed up this notion in June.
“We only deliver medicines that are tied to a prescription written by a licensed physician, and those medicines are only dispensed by entities that are also licensed pharmacies or hospitals,” Parker said. He also said the primary focus of stopping opioid abuse should be overprescribing.
In response to this, Jorgensen said the lawsuit alleges doctors were told by distributors and, to a greater extent, drug manufacturing companies that prescribing practices that have led to widespread overdoses and abuse of opioids were acceptable. He also said the complaint brings allegations against distributors’ supplying practices.
“Our understanding of how the distribution chain works is, the distributors have power and authority to curb excess opioid supply by following applicable laws and regulations to curb suspicious orders, to not distribute ways that violate regulations and laws,” Jorgensen said. “The complaint alleges they failed — we don’t know in how many ways — to do what they were supposed to be doing under applicable Arkansas laws and regulations.” Read more.