According to Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III, Food City unlawfully prescribed opioids solely for profit for well over a decade. Slatery asserted that the grocery chain violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, the public nuisance statute at three of its stores, and the common law by endangering public health.
The attorney general documented these alleged abuses in a complaint totaling just over 200 pages. Accusations included: ignoring or attenuating reports of suspicious prescribers, and fulfilling those prescriptions even after the prescribers were raided, disciplined, arrested, or indicted; selling the opioids to drug trafficking ring members; issuing a rewards card for frequent opioid buyers, making it more accessible and affordable to criminals; pressuring employees to increase opioid sales; illegally and secretly transferring opioids throughout the chain to subvert supplier thresholds; continuing the sale of opioids despite multiple instances of overdoses on property; and selling massive opioid quantities to individuals from foreign countries or far-away states.
“Food City made a lot of money from filling opioid prescriptions. In itself that’s not a problem. The problem is how they did it,” stated Slatery. “The company knew its customers were addicted. It knew 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.”
In the lawsuit, Slatery claimed that Food City had sought to maximize profits outside of the highly competitive, tightly-margined industry of groceries. Slatery relied on paper trails – such email exchanges, company policies, and sales records – to show the intent to sell as many opioids as possible, despite knowledge of the drug’s adverse impacts on the community.
According to the latest report documenting opioid statistics, in 2019 there were over 5.3 million prescriptions issued for opioids. In 2018, there were around 4,000 non-fatal overdoses. That same year, there were over 1,300 fatal overdoses – the most out of over 1,800 overdose types recorded.
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