UPDATE 6/26/12 @ 7 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Putting a stop to popping and pushing pills, West Virginia's Attorney General has launched an all out assault on 14 accused pill mill suppliers.
A lawsuit aimed at reversing an epidemic targets not the doctors or pharmacies but the distributors.
It's a new effort to battle a growing problem and the attorney general says that starts by stopping those who are pulling in the profits.
West Virginia suffers the highest overdose death rate per capita, according to the lawsuit.
Fourteen companies suspected of profiting from pill mills now has them being sued for what the attorney general says is conspiracy and deception with pill mill physicians and pharmacies.
"We now ask for them to accept responsibility and pay for their illicit actions," Attorney General Darrell McGraw said.
Case in point, is the Sav-Right in the small town of Kermit, W.Va. The pharmacy was busted in recent years for a record number of hydrocodone dosages. The owner testified in court that pharmacists filled one prescription per minute and payed supplies hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"I think a lot of times people don't realize how addictive these drugs are," West Virginia State Police Sgt. Mike Smith said. "They have a stereotype that because they came from a health-care facility or gentleman in a lab coat or a gentlewoman in a lab coat that this is a safe drug."
The lawsuit claims West Virginia is the most medicated state in the nation, filling nearly seven more prescriptions per person, per year, compared to the U.S. Average.
"Before we really didn't see the housewife, we didn't see the school teacher, we didn't see the professionals getting into the addiction of pharmaceutical drugs," Smith said.
The proof, they say, is in the numbers. Twenty percent of patients rushed to CAMC have a drug addiction or overdose. The abuse costs the start roughly $430 million a year.
Now the goal is to send a strong message to suppliers and cut the chain that links people to the prescription for abuse.
One of those companies, Cardinal Health, was recently cited by the DEA for not taking the proper safeguards to prevent abuse.
If you need pain medication for medical reasons, the attorney general says this will not prevent you from getting your prescriptions.
The Attorney General's office plans on using recovered money from those distributors for medical monitoring and rehab for drug abuse victims.
McGraw announced Tuesday that he's filing a pair of lawsuits in Boone County Circuit Court against the companies.
The lawsuits ask a judge to require the distributors to flag suspicious drug orders to the state Board of Pharmacy. It seeks to ensure the companies halt all shipments to the state that aren't for legitimate medical purposes.
McGraw also wants a court-ordered program to monitor the health of prescription drug users. The lawsuits seek damage awards as well.
One defendant company declined to comment on the lawsuits Tuesday, but said it guards against the sort of practices they allege. At least two were recently targeted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
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