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Opioid Drugs

Drug Dealer Act Applies in Tennessee & Sackler Members Apologize

— December 30, 2020

Tennessee Drug Dealer Act can applies to child victims of opioid abuse. Meanwhile, members of Purdue’s Sackler family apologize for epidemic.

The Tennessee Supreme Court has determined a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers Endo Health Solutions, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA filed on behalf of children born addicted to their drugs can move forward under the state’s Drug Dealer Liability Act.  The act was put into place to allow for civil damages against persons or parties “who participate in illegally marketing controlled substances; and to prescribe parties, procedures, and damages regarding that action,” according to the legislation.  The state’s Supreme Court ruling was unanimous in its decision.

Similar legislation has been passed in other states, including Michigan.  Effective April 1, 1994, Michigan’s DDL act requires parties who engage in illegal marketing which causes harm: “(a) Compensate persons injured as a result of illegal marketing of controlled substances; (b) Assess the cost of illegal marketing of controlled substances against persons who profit from that market.; (c) Provide an incentive for individual abusers to identify persons from whom the abusers have acquired illegally marketed controlled substances and to seek payment for the abusers’ own treatment.”

Civil damages can be pursued if “a defendant is proven or presumed to have participated in illegal marketing of a controlled substance [and a] defendant is presumed to have participated during the 2 years before and the 2 years after the date of the participation or conviction, unless the defendant proves otherwise by clear and convincing evidence,” and an “abuser” can prove that they were compelled to buy the defendant’s product during this period of time due to its marketing.  In doing so, they were negatively impacted.

Drug Dealer Act Applies in Tennessee & Sackler Members Apologize
Photo by Robinson Recalde on Unsplash

The high court’s ruling in Tennessee affirms a lower appeals court’s earlier decision that the state law could apply.  In siding with the lower court, children plaintiffs remain eligible for compensation from the companies named.

In other opioid news, members of the Sackler family apologized this month to victims of the opioid epidemic.  David Sackler, who served on Purdue’s board from 2012 to 2018, Kathe Sackler, former VP and a board member from 1990 to 2018, and Purdue’s chief executive Craig Landau (not a member of the Sackler family) all testified before the House Oversight Committee, acknowledging that individuals became addicted to their painkillers.  However, they denied any wrongdoing.

“I want to express my family’s deep sadness about the opioid crisis,” David Sackler said at the hearing, held virtually due to the pandemic. “OxyContin is a medicine that Purdue intended to help people, and it has helped and continues to help millions of Americans.”

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) responded to him, “Watching you testify makes my blood boil.  I’m not sure that I’m aware of any family in America that’s more evil than yours.”

Kathe Sackler statted, “I have tried to figure out if there’s anything I could have done differently knowing what I knew then, not what I know now.  I have to say there is nothing I can find that I would have done differently.”

Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) fired back, “You want to ask what you could have done differently?  Look at your own damn balance sheet.”


Justices: Opioid lawsuit can proceed under drug dealer law

Michigan’s Drug Dealer Act

Members of family that led maker of OxyContin deny responsibility for opioid crisis in congressional hearing

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