Knoxville police chief praises move to sue opioid drug makers

June 13, 2017: Three East Tennessee District Attorneys General are suing a drug manufacturer that they say produced highly-addictive opioid pain killers that hooked thousands of addicts and their children.

Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch places the blame for Tennessee's opioid epidemic on many shoulders: from drug dealers to big pharma.

He pointed to Monday of last week when his department received four overdose calls in one day. 

"In the city of Knoxville, we're averaging one overdose death every other day. That is devastating," Rausch said.

Most of the overdoses now occur from the drug Fentanyl. But Rausch said you can trace the start of the epidemic back 20 years.

"I absolutely know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this problem started shortly before Christmas in 1995. It was with the approval of a drug called Oxycodone," Rausch said.

MORE: East TN DAs file lawsuit against opioid drug companies

Purdue Pharma is the maker of Oxycotin and its analogs.

"They went around the country selling it as something that was non-addictive and that was not harmful and would treat pain appropriately. We know today the truth of the matter. And they should pay," said Rausch.

He supports a push for accountability by a group of attorneys general in Tennessee. Three attorneys generals from Districts one, two and three filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Purdue Pharma and its related companies, Mallinckrodt PLC and Endo Pharmaceuticals.

The lawsuit claims the company misled doctors and the public and created an environment for thousands of Tennesseans to become addicted to opioids.

"They [Purdue Pharma] absolutely they need to be held accountable. All of those that are making the billions of dollars that they're making off this. Because they're costing society," Rausch said.

Sullivan County Attorney General Barry Staubus said the lawsuit seeks damages to pay back the counties for societal costs, criminal justice costs and medical costs. 

Staubus also added Baby Jane Doe as a plaintiff to represent the hundreds of babies born drug dependent in our state. 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.

"It's one thing to hear the numbers it's another to see the babies. And know what they suffer from," Staubus said.

Rausch would like to see other attorneys general joining in this lawsuit.

When WBIR asked State Attorney General Herbert Slatery if the state had pursued a lawsuit against drug manufacturers, he said:

"Our office has been working very hard for some time now determining the activities of third parties involved in the manufacture and distribution of opioids. We are using every investigative tool the legislature has placed at our disposal, including pre-litigation subpoena and discovery, to determine the appropriate courses of action for our state. Our objective is to identify and hold accountable those parties responsible for this opioid epidemic."

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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