Five Tennessee district attorneys have filed a lawsuit against opioid producers and the owners/operators of so-called “pill mills,” including Manchester physician David Florence.
The lawsuit alleges the manufacturers and operators are running a fraudulent campaign to flood communities with addictive opioids.
The lawsuit was filed by the district attorneys general in the 17th District (Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall and Moore counties). Others joining the lawsuit Wednesday in Cumberland County Circuit Court were the 13th District, the 16th District, the 22nd District and the 31st District.
Defendants include opioid producer Purdue Pharma L.P., its related companies, along with Endo Health Solutions Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary Endo Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Mallinckrodt LLC.
Additional defendants are alleged “pill mills” Montclair Health & Wellness LLC doing business as Specialty Associates and North Alabama Pain Service LLC; and Florence, Mark Murphy and Nathan Paul Haskins, who, according to the lawsuit, diverted and illegally sold opioids throughout the state.
According to a press release from the district attorneys, the lawsuit asks for judgment against the defendants for damages resulting from breaches of statutory and common law.
The suit is asking for punitive damages against the defendants for their role in flooding the state with illegal opioids, seeks to award restitution to the plaintiffs and requests an injunction to stop the flood of opioids to the region.
Coffee County District Attorney Craig Northcott said Thursday that he was studying the lawsuit before making a decision as to whether or not to join.
The suit is the third to be filed in recent months. The first was filed June 2017 in Sullivan County Circuit Court and a second one was filed in September 2017 in Campbell County Circuit Court.
The suits that have been filed include district attorneys from 47 Tennessee counties.
In 2016, a lawsuit was filed against Florence and Lenoir City chiropractor Matthew Anderson by the federal government and the State of Tennessee for making fraudulent claims to Medicare and TennCare in violation of the False Claims Act and the Tennessee Medicaid False Claims Act.
According to the prior lawsuit, Anderson operated four “pill mills” that generated more than $5 million, at least $1 million of which came in the form of fraudulent payments from Medicare and TennCare.
The suit alleges Anderson believed medical clinics had to be owned by a physician, so he struck deals with physicians, including Florence, to pose as owners of the pain clinics while he, and later his company, PMC Management, were actually responsible for their operation. In exchange for posing as the clinics’ owners, the doctors were paid a salary by Anderson, who kept more than 90 percent of the profits for himself.
At that time, said David Boling, public information officer for the Department of Justice could “neither confirm or deny” whether there is a criminal investigation into the charges against Anderson and Florence. However, Boling said the government is not required to wait for criminal cases involving false claims to be resolved before pursuing civil action against defendants.
Florence, who owns and operates the Center for Advanced Medicine in Manchester, also served as the physician for the Coffee County Jail before the county opted to outsource medical services at the jail in 2015.