Sen. Joe Manchin Blasts Attorney General Patrick Morrisey Over Potential Opioid Settlement
CHARLESTON — Surrounded by first responders and caregivers, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., raised alarm bells about a potential settlement between West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey — his Republican opponent for re-election — and a major distributor of opioid pills.
According to sources Manchin would not identify, the senator said Tuesday the state is getting ready to settle a lawsuit with McKesson Corp., a pharmaceutical distribution company that has shipped millions of painkiller doses to West Virginia over the past 12 years. Manchin held a press conference at the Charleston Marriott Town Center.
According to Manchin, McKesson will hold a board meeting Thursday at its San Francisco headquarters to vote on accepting a $35 million settlement with the attorney general.
“Right now, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is rushing to make a one-time settlement with McKesson for just $35 million to score political points before election day,” Manchin said. “This will be a mugging in broad daylight unless West Virginians speak up.”
Manchin said he is asking Gov. Jim Justice, cabinet officials, legislators and the public to speak against the settlement.
Flanked by charts, Manchin said Morrisey has a history of settling with drug companies and distributors for low amounts, including a $20 million settlement with Cardinal Health and a $16 million settlement with AmerisourceBergen. Both were settled in 2017.
“Tell McKesson that West Virginia is not for sale and that we won’t be bought off for pennies on the dollar,” Manchin said. “West Virginia is getting ripped off if we accept this settlement. I won’t stand silent while another drug company takes advantage of our people.”
According to data from the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, McKesson shipped 5.8 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to a pharmacy in Logan County between 2006 and 2014. According to data from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 3,323 people in the state died of drug overdoses between 2001 and 2015 because of use of hydrocodone and oxycodone. Most of the deaths occurred in southern West Virginia.
“The opioid industry has destroyed thousands of lives with their business model of shipping millions of pills into our small towns,” Manchin said. “Letting them off this easy is just downright criminal.”
Manchin compared the alleged McKesson settlement to the settlement with tobacco manufacturers in 1998. The state received $1.8 billion, or $1,000 per West Virginian. If the state accepts the alleged McKesson settlement, Manchin said it would amount to $20 per West Virginian.
“West Virginia is owed hundreds of millions of dollars for the damage that’s been done from companies like McKesson and Cardinal Health,” Manchin said. “(Morrisey) is agreeing to one-time settlements that don’t amount to a slap on the wrist.”
The attorney general’s office denied it has received any settlement offer from McKesson, and it said it has not made one, either. Assistant Attorney General Anthony Martin accused Manchin of politicizing the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.
“U.S. Sen. Manchin’s shameful attempt to politicize our state’s opioid epidemic jeopardizes litigation efforts critical to protect the interest of every West Virginian,” Martin said. “Contrary to Manchin’s statements, we have received no offer and there has been no scheduling of a Friday press conference by our office. Anything said to the contrary is utterly dishonest and furthermore ignores that within hours of its filing, Attorney General Morrisey voluntarily recused himself from the McKesson matter and has not been involved in the case since.”
A request for comment from McKesson was not immediately returned.
Manchin was deflecting for his own issues regarding drug company settlements, said Nathan Brand, a spokesman for the Morrisey campaign.
“This is a desperate political stunt by Joe Manchin to cover up for his pattern of putting his financial and personal interests ahead of the lives of West Virginians,” Brand said.
Brand cited a published report that he said revealed that Manchin requested $3 million for a “Governor’s Helicopter” from a $44 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. The request was denied.
He also cited Manchin’s connections to Mylan Pharmaceuticals where his daughter, Heather Bresch, is the CEO. Brand accused Manchin of going soft on Mylan after EpiPen prices skyrocketed 400 percent in 2016.
“The bottom line is that Joe Manchin is a dishonest Washington liberal, who sat idly by as the opioid deaths doubled in West Virginia when he was governor,” Brand said. “West Virginians know Manchin has put his personal, political and financial interests ahead of the health, safety and security of the Mountain State.”
When asked about the helicopter, Manchin laughed it off and called it a lie. In regard to Mylan, Manchin said he has avoided attacking Morrisey’s wife, a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., for a company that represents some pharmaceutical interests. The difference between Mylan and other pharmaceutical companies is Mylan fixed its EpiPen problem, Manchin said.
“I don’t know what happened on EpiPen, but do know one thing: they corrected it,” Manchin said. “(Morrisey) wants to continue to attack families and people’s families. It’s just wrong. You can’t compare anything to what he’s been doing and what he has done and what he continues to prosper on through his family.”