Distributors, regulators cast blame for opioid epidemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Opioid distribution companies and federal regulators pointed the finger at each other as a contributing factor in the nation’s opioid epidemic during a landmark civil trial in West Virginia.

A former Drug Enforcement Administration official and the distributors each argued Wednesday that the other side disregarded requests to comply with regulations and policies, The Herald-Dispatch reported. Doing so could have led to stopping the flow of pills into local communities, they said.

The lawsuit brought by Cabell County and the city of Huntington accuses AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. of fueling the epidemic. The trial is being heard in Charleston.

Joe Rannazzisi, former head of the Office of Diversion Control for the DEA from 2006 to 2015, said distributors failed to follow DEA policies.

McKesson attorney Paul Schmidt said Rannazzisi made a series of drastic changes when he took his position but did not communicate them clearly. Schmidt said distributors tried to change their monitoring policies for suspicious orders, but were ultimately unsuccessful due to the breakdown in communication.

The companies have maintained that poor communication and pill quotas set by federal agents are to blame for the epidemic, along with a rise in prescriptions written by doctors.