New opioid numbers add fuel to lawsuit against manufacturers, district attorney says

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Data released by the Drug Enforcement Administration will be added to a court battle against drug manufacturers, according to Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus.

The numbers, released by the DEA and reported by The Washington Post, detail the number of painkillers prescribed between 2006 and 2012 across the nation.

An interactive map on The Washington Post’s report shows a concentration in southern Appalachia, and localized numbers show Sullivan County to be among the heaviest in opioid prescriptions in that time period.

Out of more than 76 billion pills distributed across the country during that time period, 2.5 billion pain pills were prescribed in Tennessee and 1.6 billion were supplied to Virginia, according to the Post.

According to the report, 108 million pills were prescribed in that six-year period in Sullivan County, the highest in northeast Tennessee.

“That average during that period of time, 99.3 per man, woman and child,” Staubus said. “That tells you the vast amount of prescriptions that were in the market in Sullivan County.”

PREVIOUS STORY: Sullivan County ‘Baby Doe’ lawsuit against opioid manufacturers moves forward

Data from The Washington Post.

Staubus is part of ongoing litigation against Purdue Pharma L.P., Mallinckrodt PLC and Endo Pharmaceuticals filed last year. The lawsuit is focused on the opioid crisis in our region, naming Staubus, late district attorney Tony Clark, district attorney Dan Armstrong and ‘Baby Doe’ as plaintiffs.

Staubus said the numbers will be helpful in the case against drug manufacturers.

“They had the numbers, they knew it, and they continued to distribute these drugs, even past 2012 and they knew they were highly-addictive drugs,” Staubus said. “So we think these statistics support our position we’ve alleged in the lawsuit.”

Story continues after graphs.

What sets the lawsuit apart from past lawsuits against drug manufacturers, Staubus said, is that Staubus and other regional district attorneys general filed it under Tennessee’s Drug Dealer Liability Act.

READ MORE: Northeast Tennessee district attorneys sue opioid manufacturers on behalf of ‘Baby Doe’

The court battle is on a state level rather than a federal one, Staubus said. Attaching ‘Baby Doe’ to the case to represent babies born addicted to drugs gives the case another unique edge, he added.

“Our position has been by flooding the market, by knowing they flooded the market in such vast numbers, they had to know that these drugs weren’t all for legal purposes,” he said.

He said that the case is in the discovery phase, meaning that plaintiffs and defendants are trading documents in preparation for a trial.

He said he hopes to see the trial take place next year.

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