State attorney general sues opioid distributor AmerisourceBergen in Knox County court

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FILE – In this Aug. 29, 2018, file photo, oxycodone pills are displayed in New York. Newly released federal data shows how drugmakers and distributors increased shipments of opioid painkillers across the U.S. as the nation’s addiction crisis accelerated from 2006 to 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Bearden Food City sold more than 8.5 million oxycodone from 2006-12

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III has sued AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation for its distribution of pharmaceutical narcotics and its role in the ongoing opioid epidemic. 

“We believe the company actively subverted and exploited its unique position in the opioid supply chain and its market power to maximize profits,” Slatery said.

The lawsuit was filed Monday, Oct. 7, in Knox County Circuit Court and alleges that Amerisource violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act as well as the Tennessee Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

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The state of Tennessee has already filed enforcement actions against drug manufacturers Purdue Pharma and Endo, but Amerisource is the first distributor to be sued as part of the state’s ongoing opioid investigation and enforcement sweep. 

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According to the state’s investigation, Amerisource distributed 8,555,800 immediate release oxycodone 30 mg pills to Food City No. 674, 5941 Kingston Pike, in Bearden from 2006 to 2012.  On Nov. 2, 2010, Amerisource shipped 168,000 oxycodone immediate release 30 mg pills to Food City No. 674, an amount almost equal to Knoxville’s population on that one day.

“For years, K-VA-T Food Stores has committed to proactively working with experts in drug enforcement and pharmacy best practices to assess and refine dispensing practices at its more than 100 pharmacies,” a release from K-VA-T, Food City’s parent company, said. “K-VA-T also utilized a robust third-party review and audit program at its pharmacies, including No. 674.  The company has been and remains committed to the safety and health of the communities it proudly serves.”

Amerisource made more than $167.9 billion distributing drugs in 2018.

The complaint alleges Amerisource continued to ship opioids to pharmacies in Tennessee despite direct knowledge of red flags for abuse and diversion of opioids.

“The numbers don’t lie,” Slatery said. “Amerisource made billions.

“On the other hand, Tennessee has to deal with the consequences of a public health crisis whose severity and destruction I find really hard to describe.”

Slatery requested this complaint be filed under a temporary seal because Amerisource previously claimed the information it produced during the state’s investigation is confidential.  The seal will automatically expire unless Amerisource or another party that provided information moves to keep it in place.

Slatery said in a news released he believes the complaint should be made public and that “efforts to keep it confidential will only prolong the effort to hold Amerisource accountable for its conduct.”

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