Rep. Carter named in opioid lawsuit

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 6:34 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Pharmacist and U.S. Congressman Buddy Carter has been named in an ongoing lawsuit against the opioid industry. A motion has since been filed to withdraw his name from the lawsuit.

On Oct. 19, Savannah-based attorney Mark Tate filed a motion in Chatham County Superior Court to add U.S. Congressman Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-District 1 Ga.) and his previously owned pharmacies to the lawsuit.

Rep. Carter is accused of contributing to the regional opioid crisis by receiving a large number of opioid prescriptions. The numbers of prescriptions his pharmacies received are listed in a federal database that tracks opioid shipments to pharmacies and hospitals in the U.S.

Carter has since closed his pharmacies. In a prepared statement, Rep. Carter called the accusations baseless and said since there had been a filing to withdraw his name and “there is no case to respond to or speak of.” He went on to say he is proud of his record “combatting America’s opioid epidemic, including my bipartisan Empowering Pharmacists in the Fight Against Opioid Abuse Act that was signed into law.”

After WTOC contacted Rep. Carter, Tate filed a motion to withdraw Rep. Carter from the case. He told WTOC he did that because of a “procedural matter” and he will revisit adding Rep. Carter back at a later date, if appropriate. Tate said that doesn’t change the facts laid out in his original motion.

Carter is running for re-election in a contested race against Democrat Wade Herring. WTOC Investigates asked Tate about the timing and if it was a political stunt since he filed the legal motion during the first week of early voting.

“This is not a political maneuver in any way,” Tate said. “It’s just based upon the actual facts and what happened here.”

WTOC Investigates reviewed the opioid shipment data for pharmacies and hospitals in Chatham County. The data was released in 2019 by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and processed by Virginia-based economic consulting firm SLCG. The data tracks opioid shipments to hospitals and pharmacies between 2006 and 2014.

A closer look at Chatham County data shows Carter’s three pharmacies were in the top 10 for opioid drug shipments. A spokesperson for Carter says his clients primarily were hospice and nursing homes in the region and end of life care is opioid intensive.

The shipment data and Carter’s Pharmacy connection to an opioid distributor who has settled in the lawsuit is why Tate said Carter should be held responsible.

“His three pharmacies contributed to the general community’s addiction to opioids,” he said.

The lawsuit goes back to 2018 and has spent years in federal court.

Tate represents the family of Kevin Bolton who died at the age of 42 from an opioid overdose. Bolton was taking a combination of three opioid prescriptions known as the holy trinity and prescribed by Savannah Dr. Frank Bynes, according to the lawsuit.

Bynes was convicted last year and is serving a 20-year federal prison sentence for operating what prosecutors described as a pill mill clinic.

A number of pharmacist and pharmacies filling prescriptions for Dr. Bynes have since settled.

On Sept. 28 of this year, a federal judge sent the lawsuit back to Chatham County Superior Court.

To read a full copy of the filing: " target="_blank">CLICK HERE.

The following is the full statement from Rep. Carter:

“These baseless, meritless accusations were withdrawn, meaning there is no case to respond to or speak of. I am proud to stand on my record of combatting America’s opioid epidemic, including my bipartisan Empowering Pharmacists in the Fight Against Opioid Abuse Act that was signed into law, and will not let a politically-motivated media stunt, less than two weeks out from an election, change my resolve,” said Rep. Buddy Carter.