Five more district attorneys general in Tennessee have filed a joint lawsuit against prescription opioid producers.
The Thirteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Twenty-Second and Thirty-First Judicial Districts filed suit in Cumberland County on Wednesday that claims Purdue Pharma L.P. and its related companies knowingly participated in the illegal opioid market by directing the drugs to 19 Tennessee counties. It also claims they misrepresented the nature of the opioids and overprescribed them.
The lawsuit also includes additional defendants including Montclair Health & Wellness LLC; North Alabama Pain Services, LLC; Mark Murphy, medical director of both pain clinics; David Florence, and Nathan Paul Haskins.
According to ProPublica, Murphy was the nation’s top prescriber of oxycodone hydrochloride and OxyContin® to Medicare Part D patients in 2015.
Florence is a primary physician at several additional regional pain clinics and Haskins is a convicted drug dealer.
“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," district attorney general for Tennessee's Thirteenth Judicial District, Bryant C. Dunaway, said.
The lawsuit alleges that 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.
It also claims 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.
The suit alleges all defendants were aware of the extraordinary volume of prescriptions being written and took no steps to stop illegal prescriptions or diversions.
According to Tennessee's Offices of District Attorneys General, 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."
Since June, top lawyers across East Tennessee have filed two similar suits.
Last week, Campbell, Greene and Johnson Counties all filed lawsuits claiming the pharmaceutical companies have played a large role in the deadly opioid epidemic.
The three counties claim the companies distributed highly addictive and dangerous opioids. The court files claim doctors were told by these companies that patients would not become addicted to these drugs.
The court files from the three counties also mention the prescriptions turned patients into drug addicts and for the profit of the pharmaceutical companies.
Campbell County Mayor E.L. Morton said this is the next big step in healing the counties affected.
The Knox County District Attorney's Office said 294 people died of suspect overdoses in all of 2017. As of Jan. 6, 2018, at least six people have passed away from suspected drug overdoses.