This story, originally published by The Daily Post-Athenian, appeared Oct. 17, 2017. Copyright 2017 Daily Post-Athenian.
An epidemic sweeping the area is, at least in part, the fault of manufacturers of opioids, according to a lawsuit filed by local district attorneys general.
Recently, a lawsuit was filed against prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma L.P. and its related companies, along with Mallinckrodt, LLC, Endo Health Solutions, Inc., and its wholly owned subsidiary, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., and the (now-dissolved) Tennessee Pain Institute (TPI), two former TPI employees, and a convicted drug dealer.
The suit was brought by district attorneys general from five different judicial districts – including Ninth Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson (who serves Meigs County) and Tenth Judicial District Attorney Steve Crump (who serves McMinn). District attorneys from the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth districts are also participating.
Also joining in bringing the suit are two additional plaintiffs known collectively as Baby Doe by and through their Guardians Ad Litem.
The suit alleges several things:
- The manufacturer defendants directed their opioids to the 15 East Tennessee counties of the state’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Judicial Districts, while the criminal defendants participated in the illegal opioid drug market throughout the same judicial districts along the Interstate 75 corridor;
- 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 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.
The opioid issue has been prevalent recently, and Crump argued that it is causing other problems.
“For a long time, Tennessee District Attorneys have realized the plague we’re dealing with on opioids,” Crump said. “It is driving many of our crimes.”
He explained that addiction to opioids leads people to other criminal activity, including violent crime, aggravated burglary, and drug sales in an attempt to get the money to fund the addiction.
“That is all related to one type of pharmaceutical,” he said. “We’re making sure all parties responsible are held accountable.”
Crump said the companies targeted in the lawsuit “have been a part of creating these issues” and that they “downplayed or specifically denied their products are habit forming.”
Crump said the First, Second and Third judicial districts were the first to file a lawsuit against the companies, and this suit won’t be the end of it.
“There will be other suits filed,” he said.
Crump said he hopes to see the companies adjust the way they operate in response to this lawsuit.