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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Five Additional Tennessee District Attorneys General File Suit Against Opioid Producers

14 district attorneys general representing 47 counties now involved  in fight against fraudulent marketing, criminal pill mills

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — The district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Thirteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Twenty-Second and Thirty-First Judicial Districts have jointly filed a lawsuit against prescription opioid producer 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 Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Cumberland County Circuit Court in Crossville, Tennessee, the lawsuit also includes additional defendants Montclair Health & Wellness LLC (doing business as Special Associates); North Alabama Pain Services, LLC; Mark Murphy, medical director of both pain clinics; David Florence, primary physician at several additional regional pain clinics; and Nathan Paul Haskins, a convicted drug dealer.

According to ProPublica, Murphy was the nation’s top prescriber of oxycodone hydrochloride and OxyContin® to Medicare Part D patients in 2015.

“Tennessee ranks second in the nation for per-capita opioid prescriptions,” says Bryant C. Dunaway, district attorney general for Tennessee’s Thirteenth Judicial District. “Tennessee doctors wrote more than 7.8 million opioid prescriptions in 2015. That’s more prescriptions than Tennessee has residents — men, women and children combined.

“We have experienced a massive influx of opioids into the 19 counties named in this suit. Millions of pills have been overprescribed and diverted into vulnerable populations, resulting in a robust illegal trade, skyrocketing overdose rates, and a growing financial burden on our police, schools, hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and taxpayers. The defendants named chose to participate in this process for personal gain, and we intend to hold them accountable.”

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants knowingly participated in the illegal opioid market through the following actions:

  • The producer defendants directed their opioids to the 19 Tennessee counties of the state’s Thirteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Twenty-Second and Thirty-First Judicial Districts, while the criminal defendants participated in the illegal opioid drug market throughout the same judicial districts and surrounding areas;
  • The drug producers embarked on a fraudulent campaign to convince physicians that opioids carried a low risk of addiction and were therefore appropriate for non-acute problems such as chronic pain;
  • The drug producers’ misrepresentations regarding the addictive nature of opioids, as well as the aggressive marketing of their collective fraudulent message, contributed to a market for illegally prescribed opioids;
  • The criminal defendants’ actions of overprescribing opioids generated a significant regional influx of pills, resulting in a robust illegal drug trade;
  • The drug producers’ marketing campaign gave rise to a market for street heroin for addicts who can no longer obtain prescription opioids or afford diverted opioids; and
  • All defendants were aware of the extraordinary volume of prescriptions being written and took no steps to stop illegal prescriptions or diversions.

Unintentional overdose deaths now account for more early deaths in Tennessee than automobile accidents, suicides or homicides, and the vast majority of the state’s overdose deaths involve opioids — nearly 72 percent, as recorded in 2015. Among the 19 counties named, more than 1 million opioid prescriptions were filled in 2016. The same region recorded 550 opioid-related overdose deaths from 2012 to 2016.

“The defendants named in this complaint have either knowingly participated in the illegal market for opioids by purposely misleading the medical community and general public through fraudulent marketing campaigns, or they have overprescribed or diverted pills, or failed to stop the diversion of pills,” says J. Gerard Stranch, managing partner of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings (BS&J), PLLC, the Nashville-based law firm that filed the lawsuit. “The pill mills and dealers involved have written tens of thousands of opioid prescriptions and funneled millions of pills into our communities. The resulting illegal opioid trade has enriched the defendants at the expense of the citizens of Tennessee while causing immense suffering for those who become addicted.”

The lawsuit demands judgment against the defendants for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law, seeks punitive damages against the defendants for their role in flooding Tennessee with illegal opioids, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs, and requests an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.

The suit is the third such complaint filed in Tennessee in recent months. The first was filed in June 2017 in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport, and the second was filed in September 2017 in Campbell County Circuit Court in Jacksboro. Collectively, the three complaints represent 14 district attorneys general and 47 counties in Tennessee.

The filed complaint is available for download at http://tnbabydoe.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Suit3-Stamped-Complaint.pdf.

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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Tennessee’s Fourth Judicial District Joins Suit Against Opioid Producers

JACKSBORO, Tenn. — The coalition of East Tennessee district attorneys general that brought an October 2017 lawsuit against several prescription opioid producers has filed an amended complaint in Campbell County Circuit Court.

The complaint now includes an additional plaintiff, District Attorney General Jimmy Dunn, who represents Tennessee’s Fourth Judicial District and the counties of Cocke, Grainger, Jefferson and Sevier. Dunn’s involvement raises the number of districts participating in the suit to six, and the number of counties represented to 19.

The initial lawsuit against 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. was originally filed by the district attorneys general of Tennessee’s Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Judicial Districts. The lawsuit named two 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 amended lawsuit alleges that:

  • The producer defendants directed their opioids to the 19 East Tennessee counties of the state’s Fourth, 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 producers 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 producer defendants knew their products were being diverted to the illegal drug market, but did nothing to stop it — choosing profit over people.

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 was the second complaint filed in Tennessee this year against Purdue Pharma and additional pharmaceutical companies. The first was filed in June 2017 in Sullivan County Circuit Court in Kingsport.

Background information, including 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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