The Attorney General of Ohio has hired an attorney to sue opioid distributors for overdose deaths of Ohio residents….Carol
Ohio’s Mike DeWine says Reports of Opioid Distributors are Shocking and “Clearly” Show Suspicious Shipments.
Mike Moore, Who Represents Ohio in Suit, Says this Evidence of Middlemen’s Failure to Control Pills Could trigger a $100 Billion Jury Award that Could Bankrupt Companies
Mike DeWine, the attorney general and now governor-elect of Ohio, calls “shocking” the data collected by opioid distributors and reported to the DEA that he and attorneys intend to use against them. Mike Moore, the lawyer DeWine hired to sue the opioid companies for the overdose deaths of Ohio residents, tells Bill Whitaker the evidence in the data could result in a $100 billion verdict that could bankrupt the drug companies, if the case ever goes to trial. Whitaker’s report will be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, Dec. 16 (7:30-8:30 PM ET/7:00-8:00 PM PT) on the CBS Television Network.
The data tracking amounts and destinations of painkillers was part of a confidential reporting system distributors shared with the DEA. A federal judge in Cleveland overseeing many of the lawsuits against opioid makers and distributors ordered the confidential data to be given to plaintiffs’ lawyers. DeWine says he can’t discuss the specifics of the data, but says “I will simply tell you it’s shocking. Anyone who was looking at those numbers, as those middlemen were, clearly, clearly should have seen something was wrong.”
Ohio is one of the hardest-hit states in the opioid epidemic. Over 4,800 people in the state died of drug overdoses in 2017. Says DeWine, “If [drug companies] didn’t know in the first couple years, they clearly would’ve seen it after that…When one year we had close to a billion pain meds prescribed in the state of Ohio…69 per man, woman and child,” he tells Whitaker.
DeWine hired Moore when he decided, like many other authorities, to sue the drug companies. Ohio is one of four states Moore, the former attorney general of Mississippi, represents. He orchestrated the multibillion-dollar tobacco settlement in 1998 and, more recently, helped negotiate a settlement of lawsuits against BP for its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Moore is coordinating his suits with those of 30-plus states that are also suing the drug companies and with many of the 1,500 local governments also suing.
If we win a verdict against these manufacturers and distributors…it could bankrupt them,” he tells Whitaker. Moore points out it costs the state of Ohio four or five billion dollars a year to deal with the drug epidemic. “When a jury hears the evidence in this case they’re not just going to award a couple hundred million dollars. It may be $100 billion.”
Drug manufacturers and distributors contacted by 60 MINUTES for this story declined to be interviewed for it. However, the trade association for drug distributors said in a statement, “It defies common sense to single out distributors for the opioid crisis…Distributors deliver medicines prescribed by a licensed physician and ordered by a licensed pharmacy.” To that, Moore responds, “If you’ve got walking around sense and you care, you’re going to check before you send nine million pills to a little, bity county in West Virginia or Mississippi, or Louisiana or Ohio. You’re going to check if you care.”