Tennessee Lawsuit Alleges Opioid Drug Manufacturers Deceived Public

Holding Drug Companies Liable

Three Tennessee prosecutors and the guardian of a baby born addicted to opioids say that several drug manufacturers are responsible for starting an epidemic “through deceptive marketing about the risks of addiction to painkillers.”

A lawsuit was filed on June 13, 2017, in Sullivan County Circuit Court, Kingston, Tennessee. It shares the story of the first few day of life of an unidentified infant born in March 2015, and describes how the child had to be admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the hospital where he was born.

Child Born Addicted to Drugs

The infant was born to an addicted mother. He spent two weeks in the NICU. During that time, he often “cried uncontrollably” and was treated with morphine to wean him off of drugs. The lawsuit also describes the child as having ongoing health issues and learning disabilities. None of these allegations have been proven in court.

Plaintiffs Seeking Unspecified Damages

The legal action was filed by three district attorneys representing parts of Appalachia. The defendants are Purdue, manufacturer of OxyContin, Mallinckrodt PLC, a drug maker that develops and sells several pain medications, and Endo Health Solutions. The latter company sells Opana; it develops and sells a number of other drugs used to treat pain. Other defendants named in the lawsuit are an alleged pill mill and two people previously convicted for dealing drugs.

The lawsuit is asking the court to make this class of drug less accessible in the state. An unspecified amount of damages are being requested. If the lawsuit is successful, this money will be used specifically for the following:

• Medical expenses
• Drug addiction treatment
• Pain and suffering

The lawsuit is also asking the court to declare an existing state law limiting the amount of non-economic and punitive damages that defendants can be awarded in a lawsuit unconstitutional. The prosecutors who started the lawsuit plan to join with other district attorneys to put pressure on state lawmakers to control the number of pain clinics operating in the state and what they describe as the overprescribing of opioids.

Drug Makers Denying Allegations

Purdue has “vigorously denied” the allegations in the complaint, stating that the company shares the public’s concerns about the opioid crisis and that it is “committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.”

Mallinckrodt stated that it takes its responsibility as an opioid manufacturer “very seriously.” The company said that it only makes generic versions of drugs and doesn’t promote them. Mallinckrodt also said in an official statement that it has made broad efforts to support dealing with the opioid health crisis through “a range of advocacy initiatives, direct lobbying campaigns, and charitable activities.”