McKesson Advances Novel Argument to Avoid Opioid Liability


Drug distributor McKesson Corp. says its $40 billion contract with the federal government to deliver pharmacy products—including opioids—should protect it from liability for the opioid epidemic.

In papers filed in federal court, it says a prescription drug supply contract it signed with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service enables it to raise a government contractor defense to liability in the Cherokee Nation’s suit against it.

The government contractor defense immunizes contractors from liability for conduct that complies with the specifications of a federal contract, McKesson said. Although there’s no guarantee McKesson could prevail on the government contractor defense, it could escape paying significant damages to the nation if it successfully asserts it in the case.

The Cherokee Nation sued McKesson, Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen, CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., claiming the companies caused and perpetuated the opioid prescription drug abuse epidemic in the Cherokee Nation. The suit seeks to hold the companies accountable for costs the nation incurred in responding to the epidemic.

The suit is currently in federal court after McKesson removed it from Oklahoma state court. The Cherokee Nation is seeking to have the suit sent back to state court.

Read my full article on the latest developments in the case here.

Stay on top of new developments in health law and regulation, and learn more, by signing up for a free trial to Bloomberg Law.