Memo Exhibits Distributors Labored To Change Media And Public Notion After Opioid Litigation | information
CHARLESTON – In 2015, an alliance of pharmaceuticals dealers worked with a consultancy to “turn the tide” by offering the media a “carrot” in exchange for positive coverage of the height of the opioid crisis, a memo reveals.
GMMB, a policy advisory firm that worked with the last three Democratic presidents during their election campaigns, wrote a memo to John Parker, chief communications officer for the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, in June 2015 highlighting a West Virginia-based public relations strategy, about “unbalanced” media coverage “and the public perception of the role of health care providers in opioid abuse across the state.
The memo, approved as evidence in 2019 as part of the inter-district litigation over the opioid crisis, outlined how companies should reach out to local media and elected officials to create better press for distributors after a state lawsuit against distributors “the Blamed on pain medication “had abuse right on the shoulders” of the dealers.
Since the memo, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has settled lawsuits with more than a dozen distributors for $ 94 million. The settlements only served the claims of the state and preserved the possibility for cities and districts to pursue their own claims.
Following media coverage of the filings, the memo said that companies “need to vaccinate the industry against future flare-ups of the problem in the state and beyond,” and advised them to take “real” action to keep it from appearing as if they were doing a PR stunt with no merit.
The memo was directed against Herald-Dispatch journalist Taylor Stuck and her former associates Curtis Johnson and Jean Tarbett-Hardiman, as well as the members of the newspaper’s editorial board. It also targeted several state, local, and federal officials like US Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito and the then government. Count Ray Tomblin.
However, it mainly focused on Eric Eyre, the former reporter for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, who after sending the memo received a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the large amount of opioids that were shipped to the state over a six-year period , won, and evidence that the dealers and the state knew about the problem.
It included a schedule for July 1 through September 28, 2015, a schedule highlighted by a closed summit meeting with Manchin and others where they could have an “open, unofficial” conversation and address concerns about the crisis.
The memo recommended Eyre give Eyre access to the summit speakers, which would give Eyre a “carrot” and build a relationship between them, before holding a reporter conference for a larger group.
The GMMB also recommended holding “desk briefings” with reporters after the summit so that they can develop closer relationships with journalists.
A record of the summit meeting could not be found last week.