MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Tennessee is one of six states now going after Purdue Pharma, suing the makers of OxyContin and other drugs for unlawful marketing.
They allege the pharmaceutical company and opioid manufacturer played a leading role in the opioid epidemic in the Mid-South.
Purdue Pharma is the same company Shelby County Commissioners are going after.
Tuesday, Attorney General Herbert Slatery claimed Purdue Pharma helped create one of the most devastating public health crises in Tennessee's history.
Shelby County Commissioners were already one step ahead of him.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Knox County accuses Purdue Pharma of violating Tennessee state laws with deceptive trade practices by misrepresenting the risk of addiction associated with OxyContin.
Hundreds of similar lawsuits have been filed against drug manufacturers and distributors.
Last year, Shelby County Commissioners filed a lawsuit against nearly 20 different drug manufacturers, doctors and pharmacies.
Purdue Pharma is part of the county suit.
"They really were the original makers of OxyContin and they marketed it extremely aggressively and deceptively," said Shelby County Commission chairwoman Heidi Shafer.
Shafer said the county didn't want to wait for the state's lawsuit because already Shelby County suffers too big a burden from opioid addiction.
"The ones that are doing it, we're going after hot and heavy because they need to pick up the bill for the addiction recovery in our country," Shafer said.
Tennessee joins U.S. state attorneys general from Nevada, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and North Dakota in claiming Purdue Pharma violated state consumer protection laws by falsely denying or downplaying the addiction risk while overstating the benefits of opioids.
In a statement, Purdue Pharma said the company stopped promoting its opioid drugs to doctors back in February.
The drug manufacturer denied the lawsuits' allegations and said it is disappointed that after months of good faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help the state of Tennessee address the opioid crisis, the attorney general has unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process.
According to the attorney general, three Tennesseans a day die from opioid-related overdoses.
The attorney general plans to hold Purdue accountable for the alleged crimes.