On Tuesday, the state of Tennessee sued Purdue Pharma — the maker of OxyContin — for helping to “cause one of the most devastating public health crises in Tennessee’s history.”
The state’s lawsuit says Purdue unlawfully marketed and promoted OxyContin and other drugs in the state “causing and prolonging the opioid epidemic in the Tennessee.”
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery and a group of other attorneys general filed the suit in Knox County Circuit Court Tuesday. The group alleges Purdue violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, violated its 2007 settlement with the state, and ”created a statewide public nuisance by interfering with the health of Tennesseans and the commercial marketplace.”
”Our office has conducted an extensive investigation into Purdue’s highly aggressive marketing practices and other unlawful conduct,” Slatery said in a statement. “We believe Purdue’s conduct has been unconscionable, and we intend to hold the company accountable.
“Three Tennesseans are dying each day from opioid-related overdoses, and we are committed to the hard work that needs to be done to address this tragedy.”
Purdue knew patients were dying form overdoses and that its drugs were being sold to non-patients, according to Slatery. Purdue made several illegal claims about its narcotics regarding safety and benefits. The drugs were being prescribed in quantities too large for single patients, the AG said.
The suit is temporarily sealed because Purdue claimed that information given during the state’s investigation was confidential. The seal expires in 10 days, unless Purdue acts to extend it. Keeping it under seal, though, “will only dilute Purdue’s accountability for its conduct.”
Opioid drug overdoses were linked to the deaths of 1,186 Tennesseans in 2016, up from the 698 opioid-linked deaths in 2012, according to the latest figures from the Tennessee Department of Health (TDOH).
The Nashville region led the state in deadly opioid overdoses in 2016, with 178, according to TDOH. Memphis had 150 deaths, followed by Knoxville with 147, and Chattanooga with 53.