NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- A release from Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III’s office announced a lawsuit against Food City Supermarkets, LLC and K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc. for “unlawful sales of opioids.”
The state’s lawsuit filed in Knox County Circuit Court, “alleges that for well over a decade, Food City pharmacies in Tennessee unlawfully sold tens of millions of prescription opioids, in particular immediate release oxycodone 30mg (Oxy 30), and intentionally profited from the ongoing opioid epidemic.”
In Thursday’s release, Slatery said in part, “The company knew its customers were addicted. It new the pill mills writing the prescriptions were some of the worst actors at any level of the opioid crisis. But Food City did virtually nothing that would disturb that income stream. It stoked the market with the most diverted and abused opioids, pushed its pharmacists to sell more and more, and ignored the most alarming evidence – overdoses and illegal sales taking place right outside the pharmacy door.”
Food City’s parent company, K-VA-T Food Stores, issued a statement Thursday deeming the lawsuit’s allegations “grossly incorrect and unfair regarding Food City’s approach to serving its pharmacy customers.”
K-VA-T Food Stores said in part, “K-VA-T has regularly been subject to oversight and inspection by state and federal regulators, including the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy. Food City pharmacies filled prescriptions written by physicians and healthcare professionals licensed by the State of Tennessee and registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.”
The state’s complaint, which was 208 pages, provided details about the allegations against Food City.
Some of those allegations are listed below:
- Sold more than 206 million prescription opioids, almost 25% of which were sold by Food
City # 674 in Bearden;
- Sold more than 42.5 million Oxy 30 pills—44% of which were sold at Food City # 674 in
- Ignored or watered-down reports of suspicious prescribers, allowing its pharmacies to
continue selling opioids even after these doctors, nurses, and physician assistants were
raided, disciplined, arrested, or indicted;
- Routinely sold huge quantities of dangerous “high risk” prescription combinations, in
particular the “Holy Trinity” of an opioid, a benzodiazepine (e.g., Xanax), and a muscle
relaxer (e.g., Soma).
The complaint says from 2006 to 2014, store # 674 in Bearden purchased over 18 million oxycodone pills alone. This accounted for 36% of all of Food City’s oxycodone. The lawsuit says this was enough to give every single person living in Knoxville approximately 130 opioids each.
The Bearden store is also accused of issuing a single 30-day prescription for one thousand opioid pills. The lawsuit says this equals over 33 pills a day and fills approximately 10 regular-sized prescription bottles.
“Food City used the trappings of legitimacy from its grocery store business, in part, to become an outlier of outliers even among high-volume opioid sellers,” the lawsuit reads.
The complaint states the company prioritized opioid sales above everything else – including compliance. It also says, “the Company knew early on that a substantial amount of its opioid sales were being diverted, abused, or otherwise leading to harm in the communities it served.”
You can find K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc.’s full statement below.
“Earlier today, the Tennessee Attorney General filed a lawsuit against K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc. regarding prescriptions for controlled substances filled at some of its pharmacy locations in Tennessee a decade or more ago. K-VA-T vehemently disagrees with the allegations contained in the lawsuit and will vigorously defend itself through the litigation process.
The lawsuit’s allegations are grossly incorrect and unfair regarding Food City’s approach to serving its pharmacy customers. K-VA-T recognized during the relevant time period that a few of its pharmacies dispensed a high volume of pain management prescriptions. Therefore, the company contracted with independent auditors and experts in pharmacy best practices to assure that its dispensing practices were compliant with all state and federal regulations.
K-VA-T has regularly been subject to oversight and inspection by state and federal regulators, including the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy. Food City pharmacies filled prescriptions written by physicians and healthcare professionals licensed by the State of Tennessee and registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The methods, practices and physician perspectives on pain management have changed dramatically over the past decade or more, and it is unfortunate that this course of action was pursued more than a decade after most of the allegations cited by the Attorney General’s office allegedly occurred. The Attorney General unfortunately has joined the nationwide bandwagon led by the plaintiff’s bar in bringing meritless attacks against pharmacies, having failed to make measurable progress in its efforts to hold manufacturer, distributors, and physicians accountable.
K-VA-T cooperated fully with the Attorney General’s investigation prior to the filing of this complaint, and K-VA-T’s attempts to resolve this matter with the Attorney General were rejected. It is particularly troubling that the Attorney General chose this particular time amid the already challenging COVID-19 burdens to attack a local business that the State of Tennessee has deemed essential – a company that is an employer of thousands of Tennesseans during the worst economic environment in recent history. However, K-VA-T will expend its time and resources to defend itself to correct the serious misrepresentations made by the Attorney General.
K-VA-T is proud to be locally owned and operated and remains committed to its customers and the communities it serves. More than 12% of the company is owned by 9,869 of its associates at no cost to them through K-VA-T’s Employee Stock Ownership Program. The company also supports many community-based organizations, agencies and events throughout its market area, having contributed over $61 million in support over the past ten years through vital initiatives like its School Bucks Program, Race Against Hunger, Mission Able and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation campaigns. It regularly supports numerous other organizations, including Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, American Cancer Society, The Pat Summitt Foundation, Emerald Youth Foundation, Reach Them to Teach Them, Remote Area Medical, Susan G. Komen, Helen Ross McNabb Foundation, Williams Creek Youth Foundation, East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association and many others.”-K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc.