CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A large drug firm paid a $34 million fine and some of its distribution licenses were suspended because its addictive painkillers poured into the illicit dope market.
The firm, Cardinal Health, gave $6,500 to new West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and retains his wife as a Washington lobbyist.
Former Attorney General Darrell McGraw sued Cardinal and other manufacturers on grounds that they abetted painkiller addiction in the Mountain State. But Morrisey issued a news release denouncing McGraw's "ethics" and making a claim which McGraw says is a total fabrication.
What a mess. State legislative committees or the Ethics Commission or the State Bar's ethics committee should investigate this disturbing tangle. If possible, McGraw's lawsuit against Cardinal should be removed from Morrisey's office and handled by disinterested lawyers.
Statehouse reporter Eric Eyre revealed these facts:
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration suspended Cardinal's license to distribute pills through centers in Florida and Washington state, alleging that the manufacturer shipped "staggering" amounts of oxycodone and hydrocodone, far more than populations required. The firm paid a $34 million fine in 2008, and faced more accusations in 2012.
Cardinal executives donated $4,000 to Morrisey's 2012 campaign for attorney general, then gave $2,500 more for his lavish inauguration. Cardinal also paid $100,000 last year to Morrisey's wife's Washington lobbying firm. Three months ago, Morrisey's inaugural fund gave $2,741 to Morrisey's wife for costs of bringing 18 Eastern Panhandle evangelical teens to the inaugural.
Meanwhile, former Attorney General McGraw sued Cardinal and 13 other drug makers, accusing them of fostering painkiller addiction through notorious Southern West Virginia "pill mills." Morrisey has recused himself from personally handling the Cardinal suit.
In a statement this week, Morrisey said McGraw previously "implied to me at a campaign stop that he had brought suit against Cardinal Health in retaliation for the fact that I was running against him." He added: "I ran against my predecessor's ethics, which we unfortunately are still cleaning up."
In response, McGraw said Wednesday that he never spoke with Morrisey about any topic, except for polite greetings at campaign events. As for the alleged retaliation comment, McGraw said: "That did not happen."
This strange affair raises many questions in the minds of West Virginians. As we said, official inquiries are needed to get reliable answers. And Morrisey's office shouldn't be allowed to touch the state's case against Cardinal.