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Another Tennessee attorney general joins lawsuit against opioid manufacturers

Zach Vance • Jan 10, 2018 at 6:58 PM

The list of East Tennessee prosecutors seeking legal retribution against four pharmaceutical companies, accused of fraudulently marketing opioids, continues to grow.

Fourth Judicial District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn, who represents Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier counties, joined five other Tennessee district attorneys general in the lawsuit, claiming the corporate defendants’ fraudulent marketing efforts ignited the opioid epidemic.  

Dunn was added to the suit in an amended complaint recently filed in Campbell County Circuit Court. 

In October, prosecutors representing Tennessee’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth judicial districts announced they were suing Purdue Pharma L.P., Mallinckrodt LLC, Endo Health Solutions and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc.

The lawsuit also named two infants, known collectively as “Baby Doe,” who were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome as a result of their mothers’ addictions to opioids.  

Additional defendants include the now-defunct Tennessee Pain Institute and its two former employees and a convicted drug dealer. 

The onslaught of legal action against opioid manufacturers began in June when three district attorneys general representing the Tri-Cities filed a civil suit against the same four companies, a former pain clinic and a woman accused of participating in the illegal drug market. 

Although it doesn’t specify an amount, both suits seek restitution for the plaintiffs and requests an injunction to stop the “flood of opioids” into the region. It also demands judgment for damages resulting from breaches in statutory law. 

Purdue Pharma is accused of embarking on a fraudulent campaign to convince physicians that its powerful opioid, OxyContin, created minimal risk of addiction.

As a result of Purdue’s success in marketing opioids, the lawsuit said the other three companies created similar schemes to market their painkillers. 

The prosecutors also claim the manufacturers knew their products were being diverted to the illegal drug market, but did nothing to stop it and chose “profits over people.” 

In November, Bloomberg reported that Purdue Pharma LP lawyers have started discussing “a global settlement” in an attempt to stave off the dozen states and nearly 100 counties and cities involved in legal action against the corporation.

In October, a Sullivan County judge denied a motion made by the defendants in an attempt to move the case to federal court. A month later, the judge denied another of the defendants’ requests, which would have allowed them to withhold certain documents. 

Data obtained by the Johnson City Press last year 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.

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