Tennessee sues, accuses Food City of contributing to opioid epidemic through ‘unlawful’ sales

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III is suing Food City Supermarkets, LLC and K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc following an investigation into their role in the ongoing opioid epidemic.

The complaint, filed in Knox County Circuit Court on Thursday, says a few pharmacies “unlawfully sold tens of millions of prescription opioids” for more than decade. The suit also claims the company failed to “maintain the required effective controls against abuse and diversion and directly contributed to the ongoing opioid pandemic.”

Their investigation found from October 2011 to January 2012, Food City bought more Oxycodone 30 mg for their Bearden Store on Kingston Pike than were purchased for all pharmacies in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

K-VA-T Food Stores sent this statement in response to the lawsuit being filed:

“The lawsuit’s allegations are grossly incorrect and unfair regarding Food City’s approach to serving its pharmacy customers. K-VA-T recognized during the relevant time period that a few of its pharmacies dispensed a high volume of pain management prescriptions.  Therefore, the company contracted with independent auditors and experts in pharmacy best practices to assure that its dispensing practices were compliant with all state and federal regulations.”

K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc.

The state’s complaint specifically points at violations at three Knoxville pharmacies at Food City stores #674 on Kingston Pike in Bearden, #694 on Morrell Road, and #616 on Hardin Valley Road.

They found Food City sold large amounts of opioids to people from foreign countries, including Poland and Australia, and far-away states like California, New York, and Alaska.

The suit found Food City regularly sold individual patients thousands of opioid pills at one time, despite reported overdoses in parking lots and stores.

The state investigation found that early in 2012, the Bearden location averaged 267 pills per prescription, which is just under nine pills a day for a 30-day prescription.

The Hardin Valley Road store, the complaint states, filled on 30-day prescription for 1,200 pills. That’s 40 pills a day. Investigators claims this location also had 41 patients with the same address buying schedule II-controlled substances.

The suit alleges Food City, and its executives, knew they were conduits for abuse and even enacted policies and hired people to ensure drug supply. One of those alleged policies includes directing pharmacists it was unethical to refuse to fill a prescription from a fully licensed prescriber or clinic. Another policy was to order as many opioids as the distributor would allow. When their primary oxycodone supplier cut the number they could order, the state investigation found, they solicited others.

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