A federal judge of West Virginia has rescheduled the trial of the nation's largest drug distributors over their role in the opioid epidemic. The trial, originally scheduled for October 19, will now begin on January 4, 2021, as per the two-page order by U.S. District Judge David Faber.
In 2017, Cabell County Commission and City of Huntington filed lawsuits against the major drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp, Cardinal Health Inc, and McKesson Corp, alleging their role of causing death and addiction by flooding the market with powerful painkillers like OxyContin and hydrocodone. Additionally, more than 3000 local governments across America have filed similar lawsuits against the distributors.
Last week, the three top distributors argued that holding the trial in this month amidst the pandemic will risk the lives of 200 witnesses and many lawyers by making them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 as many of the witnesses would come from outside the state to attend the trial.
Attorneys for Cabell County and Huntington responded to the drug distributors' suggestion by saying that it is just an excuse to delay the landmark trial. They even urged the federal judge to reject the distributors' plea to postpone the trial to January 2021.
Huntington’s and Cabell’s lawyers allege that the delay in the decision will result in more people getting addicted and dying due to opioids. The attorneys even provided the required reports that support their claim that the opioid death rate exceeded the COVID-19 crisis death rate in West Virginia. The reports claim, so far, 364 people have died due to the coronavirus, while 800 people die every year due to the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.
West Virginia has recorded with the highest drug overdose death rate in the U.S., and current preliminary reports indicate that overdoses increased during the pandemic.