PRIVATE LAWYERS POCKET $3.3 MILLION
Private lawyers will pocket $3.3 million of the state's $10 million settlement with the manufacturer of the potent painkiller OxyContin, according to an order on file in McDowell County Circuit Court.
In 2001, Attorney General Darrell McGraw sued Purdue Pharma, claiming the giant pharmaceutical company had engaged in deceitful marketing practices.
McGraw's office contended Purdue Pharma withheld information about OxyContin's addictiveness in an effort to boost sales.
In December 2004, on the eve of a trial before Judge Booker Stephens in Welch, the company settled the case for $10 million.
The court order stipulates that Purdue Pharma is to pay the attorney general's office four installments of $2.5 million. The first payment arrived in December. The others are due on Dec. 15 of 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The order also mandates that about $1.6 million from this year's payment is to go to the private counsel that McGraw's office selected to handle the case.
Payments of $416,666 each were designated for four firms: DiTrapano Barrett & DiPiero of Charleston; Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, which has offices in Chicago, Washington, New York and Philadelphia; William S.
Druckman; and G. David Brumfield.
Each of the firms is scheduled to receive a payment of $208,333 on Dec. 20, 2005, and Dec. 20, 2006.
The order also directs that $365,509 should go to Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll for expenses incurred in preparing the case. DiTrapano Barrett & DiPiero were to get $12,823 for expenses, and G. David Brumfield $7,503.
Meanwhile, the attorney general's office has begun disbursing money from the settlement.
Fran Hughes, who is McGraw's chief deputy, said $400,000 will be given to day reporting centers throughout the state this year, including $50,000 for Kanawha County's center.
The centers, which emphasize drug therapy and job training, are part of an alternative sentencing program for non-violent offenders. The purposes of the center are to rehabilitate offenders and to avoid the skyrocketing cost of keeping them in regional jails.
"We chose the day reporting centers because many people are there because of drug offenses," Hughes said. "With this money, we hope they can get the treatment they need to overcome their addiction."
Hughes said that over the next three years, $2.1 million from OxyContin settlement would be given to various state and county programs each year.
Day reporting centers were selected because they conform to the settlement's terms, she said.
"The settlement states that the money we receive each year has to be put into law enforcement, drug treatment or medical education," Hughes said.
"Every year we will meet with the governor's office or the Legislature to review what programs the money should go to."
Kanawha County Commissioner Hoppy Shores said the $50,000 grant will be seed money for the local reporting center. The commission also has applied for a $480,000 grant from the state Division of Criminal Justice.
Shores said the cost of keeping repeat drug offenders in the regional jail has become too burdensome. It's now $48.50 a day, up from $35 a decade ago.
"The drug causes the damage that puts them in the jails," Shores said. "We just want to provide the education to correct the problem."