Health economist: Opioids cost community $3.3B in damages


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Harvard health economist has testified that prescription opioids have caused an estimated $3.3 billion in damages in a West Virginia community.

Thomas McGuire, professor of health economics at Harvard Medical School, testified Thursday in a civil trial in which Cabell County and the city of Huntington accuse drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. of fueling the opioid epidemic. The companies have maintained that poor communication and pill quotas set by federal agents are to blame for the epidemic, along with a rise in prescriptions written by doctors. The landmark trial is being heard in Charleston.

McGuire attributed $2.8 billion to lives lost in Cabell County and the Huntington community and the rest to excess health care costs, The Herald-Dispatch reported.

Under cross examination from an attorney for Cardinal Health, he said it would be difficult to determine how much damage was caused by prescription opioids obtained through the companies verses prescription opioids obtained illegally.

Defense attorneys asked Senior U.S. District Judge David A. Faber to strike McGuire’s testimony

“(McGuire) did not calculate the harms attributable to our conduct,” Cardinal Health attorney Ashley Hardin said.

Faber said he would consider the request but didn’t immediately rule on it.

The trial is expected to resume June 28.

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