Health

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is suing San Francisco-based opioid distributor McKesson Corporation for allegedly “flooding” the commonwealth with opioids.

The lawsuit was filed in Franklin Circuit Court on Monday.

“McKesson had a duty to report when it ships large or suspicious amounts of opioids to a state or region,” Beshear said during a news conference Monday. “They knew that their shipments to Kentucky were excessive, even grossly excessive. But they simply sent them anyways and didn’t notify the authorities.

According to a news release, from Jan. 1, 2010, to Dec. 31, 2016, McKesson distributed more than 18 million doses of prescription opioids in Floyd County alone.

In Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer last August said 197 million doses of prescription opioids were dispensed in Jefferson County from 2012 through the middle of 2017.

The lawsuit is based on reports from DEA investigations that found McKesson did not report big increases in prescriptions of opioids, a controlled substance. The drug distributors are bound by law to do so as a way of keeping physician prescribing in check.

Officials in at least 25 other states, including West Virginia and Ohio, have filed similar suits.

Beshear said 4,400 people died in Kentucky from an overdose between 2012 and 2015. While doctors are responsible for prescribing these drugs, McKesson and other companies like it were responsible for reporting distribution.

“We’re suing McKesson for their unfair, misleading and deceptive business practice that allowed for grossly excessive amounts of these opioids to be distributed throughout our state and for failing to notify federal and state authorities about the amounts that were reaching our communities,” Beshear said.

This latest suit against McKesson comes after the company lost a $150 million lawsuit by the federal government last year.

Last August, Louisville filed a lawsuit against McKesson and two other wholesale distributors that serve as middlemen between pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies.

This story has been updated. 

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.