May 2 (UPI) -- West Virginia reached a $37 million settlement with McKesson Corp. for its role in the distribution of opioid painkillers.
Gov. Jim Justice and the state Attorney General's Office announced the settlement Thursday. The state sued McKesson accusing it of failing to appropriately monitor the distribution of painkillers, contributing to the severity of the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.
In January, data published in JAMA Network Open found that between 2013 and 2016, pharmaceutical companies spent nearly $40 million in marketing to nearly 68,000 physicians in 2,208 counties throughout the United States. Counties in West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee had some of the highest opioid prescribing and highest opioid-related overdose rates in the country.
McKesson denies the allegations in the complaint and any wrongdoing.
McKesson will pay $14.6 million within three business days of the case being dismissed. Five more payments will be made totaling $4.5 million each per year through 2024.
This settlement ends the state's case but does not resolve lawsuits brought by counties or cities in West Virginia.
In all, West Virginia's attorney general has settled with 13 pharmaceutical wholesalers totaling $84 million.
Proceeds from the settlements will be used in the fight against opioids in West Virginia.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., criticized the settlement, saying Attorney General Patrick Morrisey gave McKesson a "sweetheart deal." He said the settlement should have been several billion dollars.
"In 2018, McKesson made $208.4 billion," Manchin said. "How can Patrick Morrisey and Jim Justice look West Virginians in the eye and tell them $37 million is fair? It's pennies on the dollar to what McKesson cost our state."
He cited Oklahoma, which settled an opioid lawsuit for $270 million.