Va. AG gives out OxyContin money

John O'Brien Jan. 30, 2009, 3:37pm


ABINGDON, Va. (Legal Newsline) - Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell handed $650,000 from a settlement with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma Friday.

Three agencies in southwest Virginia, where the criminal case against Purdue Pharma was filed, will benefit from the funds. The settlement money came from a 26-state civil settlement worth $19.5 million.

Purdue Pharma is alleged to have misrepresented the addition capabilities of OxyContin. The company paid more than $600 million in criminal fines.

"The tragedy of OxyContin addiction and abuse has touched every city and county in Southwest Virginia," McDonnell said.

"According to the State Medical Examiner in Roanoke, from 1996 until 2005 228 Virginians in this region lost their lives due to oxycodone overdoses. Oxycodone is the main ingredient in OxyContin.

"Many others lost their jobs, their families, and their futures. OxyContin is so highly addictive that for many, once they started taking the drug, there was no turning back."

The Appalachian Substance Abuse Coalition for Prevention and Treatment received $200,000, the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy received $150,000 and the Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services received $306,413.80.

"With these funds, we have the opportunity to assist these individuals and their families," McDonnell said.

"The grants awarded today will help those with OxyContin addiction and dependency issues to get their lives back on track. OxyContin abuse has ravaged this beautiful part of Virginia. This is a step forward in ending this tragedy."

Across the border in West Virginia, the appropriation of funds from a $10 million settlement with West Virginia has caused controversy.

For four years after the settlement, Purdue Pharma, which manufacturers the painkiller OxyContin, paid McGraw's office $2.5 million. Some went to the attorneys McGraw hired (a total of more than $3 million), and the rest went to substance abuse programs picked by McGraw.

His office admitted that it did not give the settlement funds to the state agencies it represented in the suit because the federal government could have staked its claim to the money. Nearly 75 cents of every dollar the state spends on Medicaid, the program alleged to be harmed, is federally funded.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services plans to withhold millions from its next appropriation to the state.

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