Via Thom Hartmann Program: America’s Lawyer, Mike Papantonio joins Thom Hartmann to talk about the corrupt practices of opioid distributors.

Transcript:

Thom Hartmann:
There’s this opioid epidemic that is just ravishing our country and I know you guys have been working on some of those things as attorneys. What’s the situation?

Mike Papantonio:
We’re one of the law firms that have asked to be involved in the national litigation up in Cleveland, Ohio, where this is all centered. And my focus is on the distributors, distributors like McKesson, Merisource, Cardinal.

See all the attention right now is on the manufacturers, Purdue, but it’s really the distributors that were the real pill pushers. Their conduct is abhorrent. I mean, I’ve seen bad conduct over the years. But here, they understood that they could make quick money by addicting a lot of people to the point now, we have … I think it’s 170 people every day die in America because of addiction to opioids. And it wasn’t an accident at all, Tom. As a matter of fact, when we start looking at the documents we’re looking at right now, it was almost as if … once they saw that the epidemic was in place, they started internalizing the epidemic into their business plan.

In other words, they started seeing pill mills that were popping up and they would wait a year, two years, to even participate in stopping their product from going to those pill mills. There’s situations where you would have two pharmacies that were no more than three blocks away and they would sell 9 million pills to each one of those pharmacies and the population in the town would be 400, 500 people.

So, you see, that is a pretty typical kind of story. If you look at West Virginia alone, there’s 1.8 million people. They sold 800 million pills in that state alone. They knew what they were doing. They’re simply legitimized pill pushers. And now they’re trying to blame it on the doctors are responsible. The doctors weren’t responsible.

These companies phonied up literature to make the doctors, actually gave it to the doctors, pitched it to the doctors by their salespeople, telling those doctors that this is a different kind of Oxycontin. This is a different kind of opioid and people won’t become addicted to it. It’s an ugly story. The Congressional hearings took place a couple weeks ago; I actually testified in front of the staff, I had a meeting with the staff members of that committee before those hearings took place.

And fortunately, there were a couple of representatives that did a very good job asking tough questions to those folks that believe they’re bulletproof. Had four or five CEOs there in their suits, didn’t … it’s just another day of business and they raised their hands and swore to tell the truth.

I’ve read the congressional record; I’ve never seen so much perjury take place in one place.

Thom Hartmann:
That’s remarkable.

Mike Papantonio:
Except the tobacco, I saw the same thing happen with the tobacco wars.

Thom Hartmann:
Yeah. We’re talking with Mike Papantonio, America’s lawyer, he’s the attorney, he’s the host of Ring of Fire radio, he is the host of his … I think it’s America’s Lawyer, is the name of the TV show, right? On RTTV?

Mike Papantonio:
Yeah, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Thom Hartmann:
And author of the new legal thriller Law and Vengeance, it’s the sequel to Law and Disorder, TROFire.com, the website. You can tweet him @RingOfFireRadio. Pap, I was reading kind of a history of this the other day, and correct me if I’m wrong but my recollection is that Oxycontin was brought to market in 1998 and at that point in time, we really didn’t have an opiate epidemic in this country.

Over the next few years, these guys came up with a … Purdue Pharmaceuticals, specifically, I guess it is, came up with a very specific way of getting these pills out there by marketing them directly to doctors and as the evidence started coming in that addiction rates were skyrocketing, what happened?

Mike Papantonio:
Well, what happened was the distributors, again, yes, Purdue manufactured it. But the distributors are the ones that made billions of dollars. I mean, McKesson’s worth $330 billion dollars, Tom.

Thom Hartmann:
Just McKesson.

Mike Papantonio:
A lot of that happened because of … really because of their opioid business. The same way with Cardinal. These are multi-billion dollar businesses. We focus on Purdue but it’s really the distributors that are most responsible.

Look, Thom. They had salespeople on the ground. A salesperson would be on Third Street in Huntington West Virginia, there would be four pill mills on streets that were no more than three or four miles from the distributor, from the salesperson. She would drive past those pill mills everyday and we have pictures of people standing outside the pill mills at 8:00 in the morning in their pajamas, waiting to get pills.

The distributor would also see pill mills being closed down by the feds and by the local police because they knew exactly what was happening. They were the ones supplying the pill mills. So to say … to have these CEOs appear in front of Congress and act like they’re bulletproof and they’ve got clean hands, was laughable.

It was absolutely laughable. And so, I’m the one that’s along with a great team of trial lawyers that are gonna be taking the depositions of these CEOs and the depositions of these CEOs are gonna look very different when we take their depositions than they did in these congressional hearings. I would recommend they lawyer up, let me put that like that.

Thom Hartmann:
Yeah. When you say pill mills, are you talking about basically, doctor’s offices that are prescribing to people who are actually in pain but they’re over-prescribing or prescribing medicines-

Mike Papantonio:
Oh, yeah.

Thom Hartmann:
-that are way too strong or are you talking about … I remember back when I was in high school, there was one doctor in town that everybody knew if you went to and you said, “Yeah, I’m having a hard time staying awake in class,” he’d write you a prescription for desoxyn, which was that generation’s version of methamphetamine. And all the girls I knew I went to him for birth control pills, because this was back in the 60s and it was still kind of sketchy.

He was just a corrupt doctor. Are we talking about bad docs or are we talking about criminal enterprises?

Mike Papantonio:
No, no. No, you’re talking about criminal enterprise. We haven’t sued for RICO. I’ve sued these companies for RICO. They had what they call an opioid express, Tom, that operated all the way from Massachusetts to South Florida and they understood … these distributors knew exactly how it’d work. They would sell, six and a half million pills, every year, say for example, to a town where there were like 15,000 people.

Well, they knew that the numbers … I mean, the numbers were staggering. 50, 60, 70 pills for every man, woman and child in the town!

Thom Hartmann:
It wasn’t just the people in that town who were taking those pills.

Mike Papantonio:
No, they understood that it was part … they could see the chain. If you look at a map and you looked at where they dumped … first of all, they would find areas where there’s areas of despair, where people are jobless, times are hard, they would look at how many … they would look at these towns that had … any time you see hospitals and a lot of pharmacies in a small town, you know there’s probably economic problems in that area.

They would actually go to those, because it’s an economic indicator. So they would go to these areas where there’s despair. Coal mine areas, places where they used to have steel manufacturing, that were closing down. They would center in those places. And there was actually an opioid express that operated all the way from New York all the way down the East Coast and people would make those drives, and the industry knew what was going on. They had heard the term ‘opioid express’ many, many times.

And it was actually set up to where they could stop town to town and these third parties would just buy pills from these doctors at these pill mills and just spread ’em out all over the country. No different than a cartel.

These weren’t … they didn’t look like Mexican cartel, but they were. And so they just had this in place, and that was … that’s part of what we’re gonna show in trial. I’ll be trying this case next year.

Thom Hartmann:
Is that right?

Mike Papantonio:
Probably towards the end of next year.

Thom Hartmann:
The new American drug cartel. And before we wrap this up, we’re talking with Mike Papantonio, America’s Lawyer … where can people learn more about this on the Internet?

Mike Papantonio:
Well the best thing I could recommend is that they read a book called Dreamland. It is a brilliant book, Tom. It is an absolutely brilliant book. But if you just wanted some basic details, it’s literally all over the Internet now after the congressional hearings.

And we’re finding out … we’re making comparisons to what these folks testified to and what was the truth. As I said, it’s almost laughable.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.