Expert: Supply Poured ‘Gasoline’ On Opioid Crisis


Testimony in an ongoing opioid trial in Charleston suggests supply had more to do with the opioid crisis in West Virginia than any other factor.

Dr. Katherine Keyes is the director of Columbia University’s Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program. She said supply made a greater impact on the epidemic than poverty, job loss and other economic stressors.

While economic conditions were the “kindling” of the crisis, she said “the opioid suppliers were the gasoline that was poured directly on that kindling.”

The state of West Virginia is currently suing Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc., AbbVie Inc.’s Allergan and their family of companies.

Last summer Cabell County and the City of Huntington sued three drug distributors in Federal Court, but there has been no decision in that case.

A trial on whether pharmacy chain Walgreens bears responsibility for the opioid crisis started Monday in Florida. The cases are pressing ahead even as companies have been settling many of the claims filed by state and local governments across the U.S.

Going to trial brings risk for both sides. If the suing governments win, they could get major payments. But rulings for the companies could help bolster their cases that they shouldn’t be held liable for a complicated epidemic linked to the deaths of more than 500,000 Americans over two decades.