Former Mississippi attorney general Mike Moore famously orchestrated a $250 billion settlement from major tobacco companies in the 1990s. Now he’s back to take on the opioid industry.
CBS covered Moore and his efforts in a Sunday, December 16, episode of 60 Minutes.
Moore’s lawsuit will take aim at opioid manufacturers and distributors, holding them responsible for their role in opioid addiction and death in the United States.
Moore’s 1998 lawsuit was fictionalized in the 1999 film The Insider, where Moore appeared as himself. More recently, he facilitated a multibillion-dollar settlement from BP in 2015 in response to the BP oil spill.
Mike Moore’s Case Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors
Mike Moore formally represents four states in lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Additionally, his team is coordinating with more than 30 other states that have filed suit, as well as almost 1500 local governments.
His argument hinges on the financial and physical damage that has occurred as a result of the opioid addiction that was downplayed by opioid companies. Ohio, for example, one of the states Moore represents, spends around $5 billion per year due to the opioid epidemic, losing 5000 people a year to overdoses.
“So when a jury hears the evidence in this case, they’re not gonna award just a couple hundred million dollars. It may be $100 billion,” said Moore. “And whoever amongst these companies thinks they can stand up to that? Good luck.”
Moore alleges that companies knowingly misled doctors and consumers regarding the addictive nature of opioids. For example, defendant Purdue Pharma, which popularized oxycontin, once stated that consumers had less than a 1% chance of becoming addicted to their drug. In 2007, Purdue Pharma admitted in court that this was a lie.
While cases such as that of Purdue Pharma are considered “easy wins” for Moore, the bigger challenges are the distributors such as McKesson who have generated hundreds of times more revenue than manufacturers by delivering medications from manufacturers to pharmacies.
Moore’s team’s case against distributors is that they failed to control the flow of pills in accordance with the Controlled Substance Act. Louisiana lawyer Burton LeBlanc cites a comprehensive DEA database of all transactions of controlled substances as the smoking gun in the case against distributors like McKesson. Countless examples of unusual flow of opioid pills—such as Kermit, West Virginia, a town of 400 people that received 9 million opioid pills in two years—seem to be conclusive proof that distributors were aware of the haphazard flow of opioids and chose not to act to correct it.
As stated on 60 Minutes, “Mike Moore is using the same playbook he used against tobacco and more recently against BP for the Gulf Oil Spill: build legal and public pressure until the companies see no choice but to settle, and fork over billions.”
Moore refutes the idea that he’s just a lawyer looking for a payday, drawing attention to the fact that he did not profit at all from the 1998 tobacco settlement due to his status as an attorney general at the time. (It’s worth noting that he did make money off the 2015 BP settlement, several years after his tenure as an elected official.)
In Moore’s mind, success means finding “funding to provide treatment for all the 2.5 million opioid-dependent people in this country.” Increased funding for drug treatment, prevention, and education would, of course, mean several billion dollars. But such a settlement might not be out of reach for Moore; he’s done it before.
As a 66-year-old, Moore recognizes that this opioid case may be the last major one he has, and he wants to make it count.
The lawsuits coordinated by Moore and others represent a potentially massive step in the war on opioids. AZZLY’s industry experts will be back throughout 2019 to report on this ongoing industry story and others. Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn so you don’t miss it.
This article frequently cites a December 26 episode of the CBS program 60 Minutes. Read a transcript of the segment or watch it in full by clicking here.