Tennessee Supreme Court Declines to Hear Big Pharma Appeal on I-75 Corridor Opioid Suit

Lawsuit cleared to move forward in litigation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Monday, Feb. 24, it was announced that the Tennessee Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from multiple opioid producer defendants that would have provided another opportunity for those companies to argue that they should be dismissed from the I-75 Corridor opioid lawsuit.

Instead, the court’s action preserves a previous finding in the court of appeals that the case should move forward, and effectively affirms plaintiffs’ legal theories.

Companies seeking the appeal included Mallinckrodt LLC, Endo Health Solutions, Inc., Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc.

“This is a significant milestone in this case and yet another confirmation of our cause,” said Jared Effler, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Eighth Judicial District. “For more than two years, these companies have been trying to delay and derail this litigation so that they do not have to confront the obvious results of their predatory business practices. We are determined to hold them accountable for the harm they have caused and return any financial settlement to the Tennessee cities and counties where the damage has been done.”

Following the decision, plaintiffs are advocating for a trial date to be set within months.

The I-75 Corridor lawsuit was initially filed on Sept. 29, 2017, in Campbell County Circuit Court in Jacksboro, Tennessee, by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts, and later amended to also include the Fourth Judicial District.

The complaint is 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. The lawsuit also names two additional plaintiffs, known collectively as Baby Doe, by and through their Guardians Ad Litem. Additional defendants named in the filing include the (now-dissolved) Tennessee Pain Institute (TPI), two former TPI employees and a convicted drug dealer.

Since the 2017 filing, Purdue Pharma, L.P., declared bankruptcy in an effort to settle numerous opioid-related cases nationwide. Claims against Purdue in the case are being pursued in bankruptcy court.

For additional facts, resources and documentation surrounding this issue, visit www.tnbabydoe.com.

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Proposed Purdue Settlement Bears Positive Effects on I-75 Corridor Opioid Lawsuit

National agreement would settle complaints brought against Purdue by cities/counties, but leaves other defendants to be pursued in court

JACKSBORO, Tenn. — A proposed multi-billion dollar settlement and bankruptcy filing by Purdue Pharma in the national opioid multi-district litigation (MDL) is bearing multiple effects on what is known as the I-75 Corridor opioid lawsuit — including the settlement of complaints brought against the pharmaceutical giant by local cities and counties.

Other manufacturer defendants and distributors remain to be pursued, attorneys say.

The lawsuit was jointly filed on Sept. 29, 2017, in Campbell County Circuit Court in Jacksboro by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts, and later amended to also include the Fourth Judicial District. The complaint lists 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., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., and alleged local distributors.

“While the agreement — if approved by the bankruptcy court — settles claims made by my office, and on behalf of cities and counties against Purdue, it does not satisfy our complaints against the remaining defendants,” says Jared Effler, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Eighth Judicial District. “More than one pharmaceutical company helped create this crisis. Mallinckrodt, Endo and Teva played significant roles in the overprescription and diversion of opioids in our region, and Purdue’s actions will not alter our focus on holding them accountable, whether in circuit court or bankruptcy proceedings.”

The I-75 Corridor opioid lawsuit is one of three filed in Tennessee by district attorneys general against pharmaceutical manufacturers and other defendants who have contributed to the state’s opioid crisis. In all, 14 district attorneys general representing 47 counties — nearly half the entire state — have joined forces to challenge pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors for their roles in the opioid epidemic.

That show of solidarity has been instrumental in convincing the industry to face up to its actions, says Gerard Stranch, managing partner of Nashville-based Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC (BS&J).

“The district attorneys general who have spoken out on behalf of their cities and communities — many of which are rural areas — should be credited for their tenacity in standing up to Big Pharma,” Stranch says. “They are the ones whose offices expend thousands of hours and millions of dollars prosecuting opioid-related crimes, and they were the first to challenge the manufacturers and distributors in court for their actions. It is their right to hold these companies accountable and also to ensure that financial resources are returned to the communities that have been ravaged by years of overprescription and diversion.”

The I-75 Corridor suit will go to trial in the near future.

“In the two years since we filed this claim, we’ve gathered a massive amount of data on the harmful practices the defendants employed in their pursuit of profit,” Stranch says. “We look forward to sharing this information with the court.”

For additional facts, resources and documentation surrounding this issue, visit www.tnbabydoe.com.

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East Tennessee Attorneys General File Suit Against Opioid Manufacturer

Filing seeks damages for actions contributing to area’s opioid epidemic

JACKSBORO, Tenn. — The district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts have jointly filed a lawsuit 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.

Filed in Campbell County Circuit Court in Jacksboro, Tennessee, last Friday, the lawsuit also names two additional plaintiffs known collectively as Baby Doe by and through their Guardians Ad Litem. Additional defendants named in the filing include the (now-dissolved) Tennessee Pain Institute (TPI), two former TPI employees and a convicted drug dealer.

“The Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA), which includes the Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts of Tennessee, is one of the hardest-hit areas in the opioid epidemic that is plaguing the nation,” says Jared Effler, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Eighth Judicial District. “The 15 counties within these five judicial districts border the Interstate 75 corridor, which has long been known as a major path of transportation for the illegal opioid market. Two of these counties — Campbell County and Claiborne County — have the third- and sixth-highest per capita opioid prescription rates for a U.S. county, respectively.

“In addition to having a terrible effect on the lives of a disproportionate number of East Tennesseans, opioid addiction places an overwhelming strain on our region’s finances,” Effler says. “This has led to increased costs for each of our counties’ policing, health care, rehabilitation, housing and criminal justice systems. We believe there is a direct correlation between East Tennessee’s opioid epidemic and the actions of these opioid manufacturers, and it is our intent to hold them accountable for the damage they have inflicted upon our region.”

The lawsuit alleges that:

  • 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, Tennessee, 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 U.S. Department of Justice’s drug market analyses of the Appalachia HIDTA for 2008 through 2011 detail a steady rise in law enforcement seizures of oxycodone (primarily OxyContin) in the Tennessee illegal drug market — 1,069 dosage units of oxycodone seized in Tennessee in 2007 to 4,142 dosage units seized in 2010. In 2015, Tennessee doctors wrote more than 7.8 million opioid prescriptions — or 1.18 for every state resident, placing Tennessee second in the nation for the number of opioid prescriptions per capita. In addition, unintentional overdose deaths, which now account for more premature deaths in Tennessee than automobile accidents, suicides or homicides, increased more than 400 percent from 1999 to 2015 (the last year for which overdose deaths have been calculated). Seventy-two percent of Tennessee’s overdose deaths in 2015 involved opioids.

“The opioid epidemic that is currently ravaging Tennessee, Appalachia and the entire nation did not appear overnight,” says J. Gerard Stranch, IV of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC, the Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm that filed the lawsuit. “Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers have purposely misled the medical community and the general public about the need for opioids and their addictive nature, and spent years engaged in an aggressive and fraudulent scheme to push their products into a market of unsuspecting patients and physicians. The resulting opioid epidemic has caused incredible suffering for those who become or are born addicted to opioids, and it is costing millions of dollars to local governments forced to deal with the aftermath.”

Tennesseans’ addiction to opioids has created a secondary epidemic of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) that has its epicenter in East Tennessee. NAS occurs when babies are exposed to opioids in utero and then show symptoms of withdrawal anywhere from a few minutes to a few days after birth. According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the number of Tennessee babies born with NAS increased tenfold between 2000 and 2010. In 2016, 26 of every 1,000 East Tennessee babies were born with NAS.

So prevalent is NAS in the counties served by the five judicial districts that the number of babies born with the condition at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital doubled from 2010 to 2011. The hospital, located in Knoxville — the largest city along the Appalachia HIDTA, developed a new set of protocols in 2011 for treating NAS newborns that has been recognized across the country.

According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the average cost of care for babies born with NAS is roughly 10 times more than babies born without NAS. The average cost to stabilize an NAS newborn is nearly $63,000, while the average cost for a non-NAS newborn is approximately $7,200. For the entire state of Tennessee, the care for 660 babies born with NAS cost $41.5 million for most of 2013, compared to $4.79 million for the same number born without NAS.

The lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs, and requests an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region. The suit is the second complaint filed in Tennessee this year against Purdue Pharma and additional pharmaceutical companies. The first was filed in June in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, Tennessee.

Background information, including contact information, related bios, complaint documents and media coverage of this issue, is available on www.tnbabydoe.com. This site serves as an information portal and is updated frequently. Media may tag the site and associated social media in postings to be included in future updates.

 

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Northeast Tennessee Attorneys General File Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers

Filing seeks to raise awareness of addiction epidemic in Northeast Tennessee

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — The district attorneys general of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third Judicial Districts jointly filed a lawsuit today against prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma L.P., its related companies, Mallinckrodt PLC and Endo Pharmaceuticals.

Filed in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, Tennessee, the lawsuit also names a fourth plaintiff, Baby Doe by and through his Guardian Ad Litem, along with Center Pointe Medical Clinic, LLC, and two convicted opioid dealers as additional defendants.

“Tennessee has the second-highest rate of opioid addiction in the nation, as noted in the lawsuit, and Sullivan County is ground zero for opioid addiction in our state, says Barry Staubus, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Second Judicial District. “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.

“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,” Staubus says. “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 alleges that:

  • 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 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 Sullivan County, Tennessee, in the number of individuals exposed to, and addicted to, OxyContin, Roxicodone®, Opana ER and other opioids, and;
  • The police departments, schools, district attorneys’ offices, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and taxpayers of the state of Tennessee and Sullivan County will bear the financial burden of Purdue’s fraudulent campaign for decades to come.

“For many years, Purdue Pharma has inaccurately promoted OxyContin as being an appropriate medication for chronic pain, and being less likely than other pain medications to cause addiction,”says J. Gerard Stranch, IV, managing partner for Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC. “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”

Tennesseans’ addiction to opioids has created a secondary epidemic impacting the state’s newborns. According to the Tennessee Department of Health, from Jan. 1, 2017, through April 1, 2017, approximately 48 of every 1,000 births in Sullivan County were Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) cases. Children born with NAS experience agonizing withdrawal symptoms as their bodies emerge from the influence of drugs.

“We have seen a huge increase in the number of babies born with NAS as a direct result of opioid addiction,” says Lisa Carter, CEO of Niswonger Children’s Hospital. “This has become a nationwide epidemic that is most widespread right here in Northeast Tennessee.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the average cost of care for babies born with NAS is roughly 10 times more than babies born without NAS. The average cost to stabilize an NAS newborn is nearly $63,000, while the average cost for a non-NAS newborn is approximately $7,200. For the entire state of Tennessee, the care for 660 babies born with NAS cost $41.5 million for most of 2013, compared to $4.79 million for the same number born without NAS.

The lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs, and an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.

For additional facts and information surrounding this issue, as well as a full copy of the lawsuit, please visit www.sullivanbabydoe.com.

 

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