3 Tenn. Attorneys General file suit against opioid manufacturers - WSMV News 4

3 Tenn. Attorneys General file suit against opioid manufacturers

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Baby Doe Baby Doe

Tennessee's First, Second and Third District Attorneys General filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma L.P., the opioid manufacturer that produces the prescription drug OxyContin, its related companies, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Mallinckrodt PLC, and two convicted opioid dealers.

The Nashville-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch and Jennings, PLLC. will represent the three districts, which span all of East Tennessee/ 

According to a report by the Tenn. Dept. of Heath, unintentional overdose deaths increased by more than 250-percent between 2005 and 2015. 

Overdose deaths now account for more early deaths in the State than car accidents, suicides and homicides. 

The lawsuit, which was filed in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, Tennessee, also names fourth plaintiff, Baby Doe by and through his Guardian Ad Litem.

"Like thousands of children born every year, Baby Doe was born addicted to opioids," says a release from the Offices of District Attorneys General Barry Staubus, Tony Clark and Dan Armstrong. 

"The first days of his life were spent in excruciating pain as doctors weaned him from his opioid addiction. Baby Doe's mother fell victim to an epidemic that has ravaged Tennessee, causing immense suffering to those born addicted to opioids, and costing tens of thousands of dollars to local governments forced to deal with the aftermath."

The lawsuit alleges:

  • Purdue Pharma embarked on a fraudulent campaign to convince doctors OxyContin created less of a risk of addiction than other drugs treating chronic pain
  • Purdue's marketing efforts were successful, causing a rapid increase in opioid prescription that encouraged Mallinckrodt, Endo Pharmaceuticals and other opioid producers to join in on the scheme
  • Purdue's efforts misled doctors and the public about the need for opioid drugs and their addictive nature, creating an environment for thousands in Tennessee to become addicted to opioids
  • This environment also led to a dramatic rise in the number of people exposed and addicted to OxyContin, Roxicodone, Opana and other opioids in Sullivan Co., Tenn. 
  • Sullivan Co. and the State of Tennesee's police departments, schools district attorneys' offices, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and taxpayers will bear the financial burden of this fraudulent campaign and resulting epidemic for decades. 

According to the Tenn. Dept. of Heath, Sullivan Co., where Baby Doe was born, has the highest rate of opioid addiction in the state. 

"Tennessee has the second-highest rate of opioid addiction in the nation, as noted in the lawsuit, and Sullivan County is ground zero for opioid addiction in our state,” says Tennessee’s Second Judicial District Attorney Barry Staubus, which includes Sullivan Co. 

“This region has experienced devastating consequences as a result of the opioid epidemic. Too many of our citizens’ lives have been turned upside down as a result of opioid abuse, and far too many have actually lost their lives from an overdose.

According to the Sullivan Co. District Attorney's Office, 71.3-percent of all deaths in the county were directly related to opioids in 2015.

This is not the first time Purdue Pharma has faced these kinds of allegations. 

In 2007, Purdue pled guilty to federal criminal charges for misbranding OxyContin, even after physicians expressed concerns regarding the drug's addictive and abusive potential.

According to Fortune's Katherin Eban, Purdue yielded $3.1 billion in revenue from the sale of OxyContin in 2010 despite their guilty plea in 2007 -- that's nearly four times the $800 million they made off the drug in 2006.

Endo Pharmaceuticals, which markets Opana ER, and Mallinckrodt PLC, one of the nation's leading manufacturers of oxycodone, are also implicated in the accusations filed by the attorneys general.

In response to this lawsuit, Purdue Pharma 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. At Purdue, we have dedicated ourselves to working with policymakers, public health officials and law enforcement to address this public health crisis, which include developing abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naloxone. Addiction and drug abuse are multi-faceted problems that require multi-faceted solutions. Pointing fingers will not solve the problem, nor will it help those who are suffering. We urge all stakeholders to seize the opportunity to work together so that collectively we can address this crisis.”

Mallinckrodt PLC also released a statement to Channel 4 regarding this litigation, saying:

A Mallinckrodt spokesperson said, “We have not yet been contacted regarding this litigation. It is important to note that Mallinckrodt does not promote opioids and manufactures only generic and non-promoted, brand opioids. We have broadly supported efforts to combat the opioid abuse healthcare crisis through a range of advocacy initiatives, direct lobbying campaigns, and charitable activities. We take our responsibility as an opioid manufacturer very seriously.
We recognize that the opioid epidemic is a complex and confounding problem, and no one policy initiative or program will solve it. However, as part of our effort to be a part of the solution, Mallinckrodt has invested millions of dollars in its comprehensive program to address opioid abuse and misuse. For many years, Mallinckrodt has been a vocal advocate for the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) in Missouri, and has led a coalition of groups to pass legislation in Missouri to implement a PDMP. Moreover, Mallinckrodt has purchased and donated more than 1.5 million drug deactivation pouches, which have been distributed in Missouri communities and across the United States, so families can actively address concerns with the responsible use of pain medications and patient safety.
We work with law enforcement to help prevent misuse and diversion, including by providing no- cost placebo tablets of Mallinckrodt opioids to officers and prosecutors for use in law enforcement operations and contributing testimony, product testing and other information on behalf of the prosecution in drug diversion cases. We also helped to found the Anti-Diversion Industry Working Group, a collective of leading manufacturers and distributors of pharmaceutical controlled substances coming together to collaborate and share best practices with the purpose of exceeding U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration obligations for opioid anti-diversion programs.
To truly make an impact on opioid abuse, all stakeholders must better understand the various interrelated causes and contributors to the problem, and work together to address all of them in a comprehensive, thoughtful manner. We continue to work to be part of the solution."

Channel 4 reached out to Endo Pharmaceuticals and have not received a response at this time. 

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