BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — West Virginia is the epicenter of the opioid epidemic. With all eyes on the state’s major trial against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the crisis, we wanted to learn more about what this will do for the communities hit hardest. 

During his career as Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey witnessed the damage opioid addiction had on his state. He’s seen families torn apart, crime on the rise and deaths increase at an alarming rate. According to the CDC, fatal overdoses tripled in West Virginia over the last decade.  Most of them are linked to controlled substances and opioids. 

Morrisey said opioids became a leading cause of death in the state after 1999. He added drug companies misled the people in the state about the medicine, enabling opioid addiction after using prescribed pain killers. 

“Many of those same people that were going on legal prescription pain pills ultimately went on to fentanyl, to other forms of drugs and substances and they became addicted, and that is a huge issue,” Morrisey said.

But, Morrisey isn’t accepting defeat.

He’s leading the charge against this epidemic – spearheading a lawsuit against two major companies: Teva Pharmaceuticals and AbbVie Inc.’s Allergan. He’s seen success so far – Endo Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals settled with the state for a total of $125 Million. 

That money will be divided between the state for litigation, counties, and a foundation dedicated to addiction programming and prevention. He said West Virginia needs to be evaluated differently compared to other states when considering the opioid epidemic’s impact. With West Virginia at the epicenter, comparing populations is not enough.

“We should not just have this population-based formula. It should be based on severity, the intensity of the epidemic, that is what I am hopeful happens now because of the settlement, that people know you have to treat West Virginia different,” Morrisey said. “You have to treat it based upon the unique circumstances, what happened in our state.” 

Morrisey said the path forward is holding companies accountable and educating people about the dangers of abusing drugs while finding a solution that will directly benefit West Virginians. 

The state rested its case against Teva Pharmaceuticals and AbbVie’s Allergan on May 5, 2022. Now, the defense is expected to present its case before we see the outcome of the high-stakes trial.