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Court Motion is Filed to Unseal Opioid Lawsuit


The USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee has joined the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government in filing a court motion that seeks to make public the state’s 270-page lawsuit against a pain-pill manufacturer.

Last week, Tennessee was one of six states to sue Purdue Pharma, the privately held manufacturer of OxyContin, for its alleged role in creating and perpetuating the opioid crisis that continues to claim lives across the country.

Purdue Pharma wants details kept secret

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III announced the lawsuit in a news release on May 15, but the complaint itself remains hidden from the public. Prosecutors agreed to file the complaint under a temporary seal after Purdue claimed information in it is confidential.

The drug company was given 10 days to argue that the information in the complaint should remain secret.

According to Slatery’s release, the complaint “lays out, in stark detail, how Purdue violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act by making numerous unlawful marketing claims about its narcotics, including misleading claims about the safety of the drugs and their benefits to consumers.”

The complaint also alleges the company continued to aggressively market its drugs despite knowing they were being sold illegally, leading to overdose deaths.

Opioid crisis of ‘critical importance’

The motion to unseal the complaint was filed Monday in Knox County Circuit Court. In it, attorney Richard Hollow argues the document should be made public because “whatever flows from the opioid crisis becomes a matter of critical importance to the fabric of families, cities and counties, as well as taxpayers,” who will ultimately shoulder the financial burden of the epidemic.

The motion was filed on behalf of Deborah Fisher, individually and as executive director of TCOG, and Jack McElroy, individually and as executive editor of the News Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee, which includes The Tennessean in Nashville, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, the Leaf-Chronicle in Clarksville, the Jackson Sun and the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro.

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