In the first major lawsuit against a pharmaceutical distributor in the State of Tennessee, Herbert H. Slatery III, Nashville’s Attorney General, announced that due to its role in contributing to the severity of and benefitting from the unlawful distribution of narcotics during the height of the opioid addiction crisis in Tennessee, he is suing AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation. Although the State of Tennessee has taken enforcement actions against two other distributors, this is the first case within the State that is directly suing a pharmaceutical corporation as part of the current opioid investigation and wave of enforcement. This suit comes just after what may be described as the most notable opioid suit in the history of our legal system, in which an Oklahoma judge ruled that a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, had to pay a hefty $572 million for the damages caused by the proliferation and distribution of opioids that compounded the crisis in the State. This was the first case in which a corporation was held accountable for their role in the epidemic and did not handle the trial in a pre-trial settlement, and Nashville’s attorney general is hoping that it will not be the last.
Amerisource’s Impact on the Opioid Addiction Crisis in Tennessee
Many pharmaceutical narcotic wholesalers and distributors like Amerisource serve as gatekeepers and the necessary bridge between pharmacies and drug-creating companies, which is why such an emphasis is placed on the necessity of integrity and discretion when providing pharmacies with the proper amount of painkillers. That’s why the State of Tennessee’s civil enforcement action has sought to sue them– they believe that, among other distributors, Amerisource needs to be held accountable for violating the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act of 1977 and for its active role in worsening what could be considered the most serious public health crisis in the State and nation’s history. In the complaint filed against Amerisource, the State alleges that the company persisted with shipments of opioids and opiates to pharmacies across the State in blatant disregard of red flags for abuse in specific counties and in full knowledge of the epidemic we are currently facing.
Attorney General Slatery believes that “The company actively subverted and exploited its unique position in the opioid supply chain and its market power to maximize profits. The numbers don’t lie.” He also expressed immense frustration with the outcome of Amerisource’s blatant over-distribution of opioids to known problem pharmacies over the course of the years, especially when they knew the drugs would eventually find their way into the hands of dealers and sold on the streets.
“Tennessee has to deal with the consequences of a public health crisis whose severity and destruction I find really hard to describe,” Slatery said, failing to find words for the excessive amount of devastation wrought on Tennesseans across the State as a direct result of Amerisource’s actions.
“Confidential” Documents Keep the Case Sealed
Not unlike other lawsuits involving opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma and Endo, this complaint has been filed under a temporary seal as requested by the Attorney General Slatery. Although Attorney General Slatery has vocalized his belief that the complaint ought to be unsealed and made available to the public, it has been temporarily sealed for ten business days to allow Amerisource to seek a protective order for any information that was previously claimed to be confidential. Many of the documents produced by the State during its investigation have been claimed by Amerisource to contain either highly confidential, proprietary, or trade secret information, although Attorney General Slatery has shared that he believes that the temporary seal will only prolong the process of holding the company accountable for its unlawful behaviors.
Bringing Opioid Addiction Treatment to Tennessee
Although the lawsuit is still in its incipient stages, this is the first complaint filed that can have a direct impact on curbing the epidemic and take steps towards solutions within the State of Tennessee. One of the leading states in an unofficial multi-state coalition of Attorney Generals actively working on amending and remedying the root issues of over-distribution to problem areas, Tennessee is engaged in negotiations with specific manufacturers and distributors working within the State. While reinforcing accountability and taking measures to curb the crisis are significant, handling the aftermath with effective treatment is just as important and necessary to help save more lives from the beast of opioid addiction.
The Office of the Attorney General is also working towards an outcome that will assist with providing the prevention, education, and treatment of opioids that is necessary to healing the communities hit hardest by the crisis, and so is Recovery Unplugged. With Recovery Unplugged Nashville opening up in Brentwood, our goal is to help those who have fallen victim to the disease of addiction get back on their feet and get the treatment they need and deserve. We wholeheartedly believe that music is our medicine, and that music assisted treatment can provide the comprehensive and effective therapies necessary to reclaim life from the jaws of the opioid epidemic.