Drug distribution companies ask Boone County judge to keep suit's pill shipment records sealed


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CHARLESTON, West Virginia — Eleven pharmaceutical drug distributors have asked a judge to deny the state's request to unseal a court filing containing information about their shipments to West Virginia pharmacies.

The companies are being sued in Boone County Circuit Court by the Department of Health and Human Resources and the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. The lawsuit alleges that the companies have helped fuel the state's pain pill epidemic by shipping excessive amounts of prescription painkillers to southern West Virginia pharmacies.

The drug shipment records are contained in a revised complaint filed by the state. The lawsuit originally was filed in 2012 by former Attorney General Darrell McGraw.

Last week, the companies filed a proposed order asking Circuit Judge William Thompson to keep the entire revised complaint sealed, arguing that the drug shipment information is confidential. The filing cites a November 2013 "protective order" that allows the state and drug distributors to label some information "confidential" and "highly confidential," The Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/1bS3AGz) reported.

Jim Cagle, a special assistant attorney general representing the state, has argued that the drug shipment information is in the public's interest and should be disclosed. He filed a proposed order in March that seeks to unseal the revised lawsuit.

The companies said they provided the information to Cagle with the understanding that the documents would not be made public.

"Protective orders are routinely entered and respected during the discovery phase of litigation because parties to litigation do not wish for their private business, confidential, commercial or financial information in the public record." A.L. "Al" Emch, the drug companies' lawyer, wrote in the filing.

The companies said the revised complaint could be released with the information blacked out in the court file available to the public. The state could file additional motions challenging the companies' "categorizations of specific redacted information."

Defendants in the lawsuit include AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. and H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Co., of Delaware; Miami-Luken Inc., KeySource Medical Inc. and Masters Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Ohio; Harvard Drug Group, of Michigan; J.M. Smith Corp., of South Carolina; Associated Pharmacies of Alabama; Quest Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Kentucky; Top Rx of Tennessee; and Anda Inc. of Florida.

Information from: The Charleston Gazette, http://www.wvgazette.com

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