The battle against opioids in West Virginia — the state with the country’s highest rate of fatal overdoses — is being fought on many fronts.
“What’s happening in West Virginia right now is that we’re losing a generation of people to despair,” said Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s attorney general.
In the last five months Morrisey has implemented new statewide prescription guidelines. He’s moved forward with a lawsuit he inherited from his predecessor against eleven major drug distributors.
He also filed a new suit against the nation’s top drug wholesaler, McKesson, for flooding the state with 100 million pain pills in a five year period.
But the fight against opioids in West Virginia is complex, as one look at Morrisey’s career path makes plain.
“In my past practice I was the co-chair of a large healthcare pharmaceutical practice. But I had worked on Capitol Hill before. So I’ve done a lot of compliance work, regulatory work,” Morrisey told CBS News.
“From 2010 to 2012 were you lobbying on behalf of health care companies, pharmaceutical distributors?” we asked him.
“Well I was a private lawyer and we did do some lobbying work,” Morrisey explained.
As a lobbyist, Morrisey was paid $250,000 to represent a pharmaceutical trade group funded by some of the same distributors West Virginia is now suing.
Records show he also took more than $8,000 in political contributions from Cardinal Health, a defendant in one of the state’s lawsuits. The West Virginia bar was concerned enough about a potential conflict to launch an investigation.
When he first took office in January 2013, Morrisey said he would step away from cases involving Cardinal. But five months later he met with senior representatives from the company.
“Is it appropriate for you to be meeting with two executives and a lawyer for Cardinal Health care when the state is suing them?” we asked.
“Well, as you…