Tenn. lawsuit accuses Food City of illegally selling opioids

Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 2:08 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 4, 2021 at 5:53 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - East Tennessee grocery store Food City is facing a lawsuit after being accused of unlawfully selling opioids.

Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III on Thursday announced the lawsuit was being brought by the state.

However, officials with K-VA-T Food Stores, the parent company of Food City, released a statement vehemently denying the allegations outlined in the lawsuit.

“K-VA-T vehemently disagrees with the allegations contained in the lawsuit and will vigorously defend itself through the litigation process.

The lawsuit’s allegations are grossly incorrect and unfair regarding Food City’s approach to serving its pharmacy customers. K-VA-T recognized during the relevant time period that a few of its pharmacies dispensed a high volume of pain management prescriptions. Therefore, the company contracted with independent auditors and experts in pharmacy best practices to assure that its dispensing practices were compliant with all state and federal regulations.”

K-VA-T’s statement in full is available to read here.

The lawsuit alleges that of more than 42.5 million Oxy 30 pills sold by the company, 44 percent were sold at the Bearden store and that opioid pills were sold to criminals involved in drug trafficking rings.

The lawsuit accused Food City of ignoring or watering down reports of suspicious prescribers, allowing pharmacies to continue selling opioids even after certain doctors, nurses, and physician assistants were raided, disciplined, arrested or indicted.

Food City is accused of continuing to sell the pills, including what is known as the “holy trinity” which included opioids, benzodiazepine, and Xanax, despite multiple instances of overdoses at its stores or in store parking lots. This particular combination of drugs can be especially dangerous, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

“Food City made a lot of money from filling opioid prescriptions,” said a statement from Slatery. “In itself that’s not a problem. The problem is how they did it.” said General 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.”

The full lawsuit is available to read here.

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