Regional District Attorneys General Outline $2.4 Billion Opioid Recovery Plan

BRISTOL, Tenn. — A cache of reports compiled by expert witnesses in the upcoming May 2020 Sullivan Baby Doe trial will be released, following a push by regional district attorneys general (DAGs) to make the documents public.

The documents, previously filed under seal, outline a $2.4 billion plan by DAGs to help counter the adverse and far-reaching effects of East Tennessee’s opioid crisis. The plan and its estimated cost was developed under the guidance of multiple industry experts, including Scott Hemphill, J.D., Ph.D., who grew up in Johnson City, Tennessee, and now serves as the Moses H. Grossman Professor of Law at New York University’s School of Law.

“The amount we are seeking from these opioid producers and distributors is only a fraction of what we have lost in dealing with the problems they created,” says Barry Staubus, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Second Judicial District.

The DAGs plan spans a 15-year period and focuses on support for area law enforcement, a comprehensive treatment system for opioid use disorder (OUD) that includes inpatient and outpatient services, and support services for mothers with OUD and their children. Additional elements address the use of drug courts and therapeutic communities within the jail system to help reduce overcrowding, increased screening for disease, medical monitoring and support for mothers of infants with NAS, and treatment and support for children whose parents or primary caregivers suffer from OUD.

More than 7,000 grandparents in the nine East Tennessee counties represented in the suit have primary custody of their grandchildren, a phenomenon that local officials attribute largely to parental use of opioids.

Other notable facts resulting from the reports include:

  • the disproportionate effect of the opioid epidemic in Tennessee, and particularly in the nine counties represented in the suit, with a rate of 237.5 prescriptions per 100 people filled in Sullivan County in 2010, compared to the national rate of 81.2 prescriptions per 100 people during the same period;
  • a corresponding rate of overdose deaths due to opioids, with a rate of 19.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 people (or 1,268 deaths) recorded in the nine counties in 2017, compared to the overall U.S. rate of 14.9 deaths per 100,000 people; and
  • a higher incidence rate of NAS in the nine counties, with 41 cases per 1,000 live births (or 198 infants) recorded in 2018, compared to the Tennessee average of 11 cases per 1,000 live births.

“Law-abiding citizens should not have to bear the cost of cleaning up this opioid catastrophe,” Staubus says. “Our plan will bring much-needed relief to the first responders, teachers, healthcare workers, grandparents, parents and others who are working to address this crisis in our communities.”

The multiple documents made public Thursday include reports from:

  • C. Scott Hemphill, J.D., Ph.D., a graduate of Stanford, Harvard and the London School of Economics who currently serves as the Moses H. Grossman Professor of Law at New York University’s School of Law;
  • Richard A. Rawson, Ph.D., retired co-director of UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, professor emeritus at the UCLA Department of Psychiatry, and research professor, Center for Behavior and Health, Department of Psychiatry at the University of Vermont;
  • Joel S. Koenig, M.D., former chief of Pediatrics at Missouri Baptist Medical Center;
  • David M. Stern, M.D., Ph.D., former vice-chancellor for Health Affairs for Statewide Initiatives, former executive dean and vice-chancellor for Health Affairs at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and former Gerald and Janet Carrus endowed professor at Columbia; and
  • Lloyd I. Sederer, M.D., adjunct professor at the Columbia School of Public Health and former chief medical officer for the New York State Office of Mental Health.

The Sullivan Baby Doe suit is currently scheduled to go to trial Monday, May 18, 2020, in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Bristol, Tennessee.

Originally, the suit listed prescription opioid producers Purdue Pharma, L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company; Mallinckrodt LLC; Endo Health Solutions, Inc. and Endo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. as producer defendants. Since then, Purdue Pharma has declared bankruptcy as part of a nationwide attempt to settle thousands of suits that followed Baby Doe’s lead. Mallinckrodt and Endo remain active defendants.

For additional facts and information surrounding this issue, visit www.sullivanbabydoe.com.

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Trial Date Set In Sullivan Baby Doe Suit

KINGSPORT, Tenn. — The Sullivan Baby Doe lawsuit is headed to trial.

At a hearing today in Sullivan County Circuit Court, Chancellor E.G. Moody scheduled a trial date of Monday, May 18, 2020, for the region’s central opioid suit and set the venue in Bristol, Tennessee.

The lawsuit, which was the first of its kind in the nation, was jointly filed on June 13, 2017. Plaintiffs include the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third Judicial Districts, as well as Baby Doe, by and through his Guardian Ad Litem.

Originally, the suit listed prescription opioid producers Purdue Pharma, L.P.; Purdue Pharma, Inc.; The Purdue Frederick Company; Mallinckrodt LLC; and Endo Health Solutions, Inc., as producer defendants. Since then, Purdue Pharma has declared bankruptcy as part of an attempt to settle thousands of suits that followed Baby Doe’s lead. Mallinckrodt and Endo remain active defendants.

“The producer defendants have repeatedly attempted to stop a jury from rendering judgment on their conduct,” says Gerard Stranch, managing partner for Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC. “Four Tennesseans are dying of opioid overdoses every day. While the idea of taking on companies of this size seemed like an impossible task to many, the district attorneys general knew that doing so was the only way to try and reduce the number of deaths and NAS births. Their foresight and tenacity has now led to a trial date being set, and we very much look forward to sharing with the jury the data and details we have discovered about these companies’ destructive business practices.”

 For additional facts and information surrounding this issue, visit www.sullivanbabydoe.com.

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Judge Denies Big Pharma Motions to Dismiss Sullivan Baby Doe Opioid Suit

Lawsuit against prescription opioid producers set to move forward

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Second Judicial District Chancellor E.G. Moody issued a ruling today on multiple motions filed by prescription opioid producers to dismiss the Sullivan Baby Doe lawsuit.

The lawsuit was jointly filed on June 13, 2017, in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, Tennessee, by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s First, Second and Third Judicial Districts.

Chancellor Moody denied the motions to dismiss, and ruled that the lawsuit can move forward in litigation.

The complaint lists prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, L.P. and its related companies, along with Mallinckrodt PLC, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and three convicted opioid dealers as defendants. The lawsuit also names Baby Doe, by and through his Guardian Ad Litem, as an additional plaintiff.

“We greatly appreciate today’s ruling by Chancellor Moody and his decision to move forward with the lawsuit,” says J. Gerard Stranch, managing partner for Nashville, Tennessee-based law firm Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC. “We see this as an affirmation of our arguments and a victory for our claim, and our team looks forward to trying this case on behalf of the communities represented by the district attorneys. The Northeast Tennessee region has suffered terrible consequences as a result of the opioid epidemic, which has been fueled by the actions of Purdue Pharma and other defendants. We are committed to holding those companies accountable for their actions, and to returning any financial settlement to the communities dealing with the aftermath of their actions.”

The Sullivan Baby Doe suit demands judgment against the defendants for damages, and seeks restitution for the plaintiffs and an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.

“The nine counties represented in this suit have experienced an enormous influx of opioids over the past several years, stemming from the overprescribing and diversion of pills,” says Barry Staubus, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Second Judicial District. “The resulting illegal drug market that now flourishes in our region has led to huge increases in overdose deaths and babies born addicted to opioids. The defendants knowingly contributed to and participated in the illegal drug market at the expense of families and communities throughout our region. We want them to be held legally and financially accountable here in Northeast Tennessee, where the damage has been done.”

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

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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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