Kingsport Times-News: Kingsport medical center denies allegations in opioid lawsuit, wants certain terms removed

Kingsport medical center denies allegations in opioid lawsuit, wants certain terms removed

Nick Shepherd • Updated Aug 1, 2017 at 3:17 PM

A Kingsport medical center named in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers denies the allegations against it and wants to have the terms "black market," "drug dealers" and "pill mill," removed when the clinic is mentioned in the suit.

Center Pointe Medical Clinic LLC. filed the response in U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Tuesday. The clinic was named as one of the defendants when the district attorneys general for Sullivan, Hawkins and Washington counties announced in June they were filing a lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals, Mallinckrodt PLC and Endo Pharmaceuticals due to the ongoing opioid crisis in Northeast Tennessee.

The lawsuit alleges that Center Pointe contributed to the opioid epidemic in the region by diverting and/or assisting in illegally selling opioids in Northeast Tennessee. The suit also names three individuals, including a doctor in Morristown who ran a "drive-through pill mill."

A page of the lawsuit details the allegations against Center Pointe.

It accuses the clinic of prescribing opioids at a rate higher than typical medical clinics and knowingly participating in the illegal drug market, that patients were able to obtain prescriptions without a legitimate medical purpose, prescribed more than 50,000 pills of hydrocodone and Oxycodone per week.

It said the vast majority of people who obtained pills from the clinic did so using cash or TennCare and the drugs were diverted to the illegal opioid market after being obtained from the clinic.

Center Pointe denied all those allegations, including that the clinic employs five nurse practitioners.

"It is denied that Defendant participates in the illegal drug market in Tennessee," according to the response. "Further, Defendant is without information or knowledge sufficient to know what constitutes a typical medical clinic as alleged by Plaintiffs or the prescription practices of such a typical medical clinic, strict proof of the same being demanded."

The legal response, filed by attorney Leslie T. Ridings Esq., with Hunter, Smith and Davis LLP law firm, also asks the court to strike the terms "pill mill," "black market" and "drug dealer" in any context that refers to Center Pointe.

The response calls the allegations false, inflammatory and improper. The clinic denies it is a pill mill. It also states that the three district attorneys general knew the allegations were false or should have known they were false.

It also asks the court to strike down the allegations that the clinic's behavior was illegal or that it ever sold or diverted prescription opioids. The clinic also denies it created or contributed to the creation of nuisance.

"Further, it denies that its behavior in providing care and treatment to its patients was such that it had no social utility, in fact the opposite is true in that Center Pointe’s care and treatment of its patients meets and/or exceeds the appropriate standard of care for primary care clinics in Sullivan County or similar communities," the response stated.

The response says the lawsuit was filed in bad faith in order to prevent the opioid manufacturers from removing the matter to Federal District Court on diversity grounds.

Center Pointe demanded a jury at the end of its response.

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