5 East Tennessee district attorneys sue opioid manufacturers

Zach Vance • Oct 3, 2017 at 11:46 PM

For the second time this year, a group of East Tennessee prosecutors have singled out four pharmaceutical manufacturers in a lawsuit alleging they contributed to the state’s opioid epidemic.

Five district attorneys general, representing Tennessee’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth judicial districts, and two plaintiffs collectively known as “Baby Doe,” named Purdue Pharma L.P., Mallinckrodt LLC, Endo Health Solutions and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc. as defendants in the lawsuit.

Additional defendants include the now-dissolved Tennessee Pain Institute, Timothy Gowder, Gary Moore and Joshua Hurst, who all allegedly participated in the illegal opioid drug market, the lawsuit stated.

Back in June, Tony Clark, First Judicial District attorney general, Barry Staubus, Second Judicial District attorney general, Dan Armstrong, Third Judicial District attorney general and representatives of a Baby Doe filed a similar suit alleging the same pharmaceutical manufacturers fraudulently marketed opioids in the Tri-Cities region.

The most recent lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages resulting in breaches in statutory law, seeks restitution for the plaintiffs and requests an injunction to stop the “flood of opioids” into the 15-county region, which includes Knox, Anderson, Campbell and Polk counties, among others.

According to the new suit, Baby Doe No. 1 was born in Knox County’s Fort Sanders Hospital addicted to drugs obtained in Campbell County. Baby Doe No. 2 was born in Campbell County, and shortly after, diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome as a result of exposure to oxycodone, morphine and Opana while still in his mother’s uterus.

“Baby Doe No. 1 is a victim of the opioid crisis. He was born addicted to opioids, diagnosed with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and forced to endure a painful start to his life; crying excessively, arching his back, refusing to feed and shaking,” the lawsuit states.

“His mother, Mary Doe, did not start out as an addict. As a result of the Defendants’ fraudulent scheme, Mary Doe’s community in the Appalachian region of Tennessee was awash in opioid, fueling a dramatic increase in those exposed to and addicted to oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet, OxyContin, Roxicodone, Opana and other opioids.”

Mary Doe allegedly became addicted at 15 years old, began using regularly at 18 years old and by the time she learned she was pregnant, “it was too late to prevent Baby Doe No. 1’s addiction.”

“It is now beyond reasonable question that the manufacturer defendants’ fraud caused Mary Doe and thousands of others in Tennessee to become addicted to opioids— an addiction that, thanks to their fraudulent conduct, was all but certain to occur,” the lawsuit alleges.

Other allegations were nearly verbatim to the ones listed in the East Tennessee lawsuit.

Those included:

• Purdue Pharma embarked on a fraudulent campaign to convince physicians that OxyContin created minimal risk of addiction;

• as Purdue’s marketing efforts demonstrated success in the form of rapid increases in opioid prescriptions, Mallinckrodt, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and other opioid manufacturers joined Purdue in its fraudulent scheme;

• Purdue’s efforts and those of the other defendants to mislead doctors and the public about the need for, and addictive nature of, opioid drugs led to an opioid epidemic, created an environment for thousands of individuals in Tennessee to become addicted to opioids, and fueled a dramatic increase in Campbell County, Tennessee, and other East Tennessee counties in the number of individuals exposed and addicted to OxyContin, Roxicodone, Opana ER and other opioids; and

• the manufacturer defendants knew their products were being diverted to the illegal drug market, but did nothing to stop it, choosing profit over people.

Data obtained by the Johnson City Press showed Purdue Pharma LLC, Mallinckrodt PCL and Endo International Pharmaceuticals distributed roughly 78 million, or $100 million worth of painkillers in the Tri-Cities between 2012 and 2016.

Further investigation revealed those companies only represented 18 percent of the total painkillers distributed into the Tri-Cities during that four-year period.

In response to the Northeast Tennessee lawsuit, Purdue Director of Communications Bob Josephson said, “While we vigorously deny the allegations in the complaint, we share public officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.”

To learn more, visit www.sullivanbabydoe.com.

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.

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