Tennessee district attorneys general sue prescription opioid manufacturer

WATE 6 On Your Side staff - JOHNSON CITY (WATE) - A prescription opioid manufacturer and its two related companies are being sued by three district attorneys general.

District attorneys general from the first, second and third districts are suing Purdue Pharma L.P. and its related companies Mallinckrodt PLC and Endo Pharmaceuticals.

The lawsuit was filed in Sullivan County Circuit Court. It names a fourth plaintiff, Baby Doe through his legal guardian.

"Tennessee has the second-highest rate of opioid addiction in our nation," says District Attorney General Barry Staubus. "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."

Two convicted opioid dealers and Center Pointe Medical Clinic, LLC were named as additional defendants.

The lawsuit is asking for judgement against the defendants, restitution to plaintiffs and an injunction to stop more opioids from coming to the area.

"In addition, opioid addiction presents a tremendous financial burden for our region, resulting in increased costs to each of our counties' policing, health care, rehabilitation, housing and criminal justice systems," said Staubus. "We believe there is a direct correlation between Northeast Tennessee's opioid epidemic and Purdue Pharma's fraudulent claims in their marketing of OxyContin to the medical community, and it is our intent to hold them accountable for the damage they have inflicted upon our region."

The lawsuit claims Purdue Pharma used a fraudulent campaign to convince doctors OxyContin had little risk of addiction. It goes on to say that more manufacturers joined in on the campaign after Purdue's success.

Also, it claims that the actions of the companies lead many in Tennessee to become addicted to opioids, including OxyContin, Roxicodone, Opana ER and more.

Police departments, schools, district attorney offices, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and taxpayers will have to deal with the financial consequences of their actions, according to the lawsuit.

"For many years, Purdue Pharma has inaccurately promoted OxyContin as being an appropriate medication for chronic pain, being less likely than other pain medications to cause addiction," says lawyer Gerard Stranch, IV. "Their aggressive marketing of this product has resulted in an opioid epidemic that is ravaging Tennessee, causing immense suffering to those born addicted to opioids, and costing millions of dollars to local governments forced to deal with the aftermath."

The lawsuit cites a statement from Niswonger Children's Hospital in Johnson City saying there has been an increase of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) due to opioid addiction. The Tennessee Department of Health says from January 1 to April 1 of this year, 48 of 1,000 births in Sullivan County were NAS cases.

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