Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the nation’s largest generic opioid makers, announced an agreement in principle with some 2,500 local governments, states and tribes over the company’s role in the ongoing and deadly opioid epidemic.
The settlement, worth up to $4.25 billion, came after a series of breakneck trials and prior settlements in individual cases across the country over the past year.
Although much less well known, Teva, an Israeli company, and its subsidiaries produced far more prescription opioids during the peak years of the crisis than big-name opioid makers like Johnson & Johnson. Its output of brand-name and generic painkillers dwarfed the output of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, the drug most immediately associated with triggering a spate of overdoses and deaths.
Under the agreement, Teva would make payments over 13 years, targeting state, local and tribal programs to alleviate the opioid crisis, which has only deepened during the coronavirus pandemic. The $4.25 billion total included the nearly $550 million in settlements the company had already reached when trials began in San Francisco, as well as in Florida, West Virginia, Texas, Louisiana and Rhode Island.
States and communities can choose to accept a portion of their payments in overdose reversal medications, rather than cash.
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The deal was negotiated by representatives of a dozen state attorneys general. “Today’s announcement demonstrates once again that those responsible for this tragic problem will be held accountable and help will be available for those affected by the opioid epidemic,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, whose office participated in the negotiations. a declaration.
Teva said in a statement: “While the settlement will not include admission of wrongdoing, it is in our best interest to put these cases behind us and continue to focus on the patients we serve every day.”
People close to the talks said about 10 to 12 percent of the money would go to fees for lawyers who, starting in 2013, brought cases against the company.
In 2016, Teva acquired Actavis, a generics unit of Allergan. For the Teva settlement to be finalized, Allergan must also settle with these plaintiffs. Lawyers familiar with the negotiations said they expected that announcement to be made soon.
The agreement also depends on an overwhelming majority of state, local and tribal governments voting in favor.
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Lawyers for an executive committee negotiating for local governments urged everyone to back the hard-won deal: “We encourage all of these groups to sign this deal to get these resources into the hands of those who need them as quickly as possible.” “. they said in a statement.
While that outcome seems likely, one participating state, among the dozen that negotiated terms, has yet to sign: New York, along with Nassau and Suffolk counties, which prevailed against Teva in a civil jury trial last December. . Under the shadow of a second phase of that lawsuit to determine financial remedies, New York is still in talks with the company, a spokeswoman for the New York attorney general’s office said.
Getting an acceptable offer from Teva has been a particularly protracted battle for the states, tribes and municipalities that brought cases against it. While Purdue Pharma, for example, has often been associated with exaggerated and misleading marketing of its brand-name drugs to physicians, generic drugmakers do not formally make sales calls to them. Teva maintained that it did not market its opioids to doctors.
One of Teva’s initial settlement offerings, in 2019, consisted almost entirely of drugs, along with a small amount of cash. Although Johnson & Johnson and the three drug distributors who also participated in that initial offering settled two years later, Teva continued to litigate.
But in December 2020, the Senate Finance Committee released findings that particularly criticized Teva, among other manufacturers, for the millions of dollars it paid to tax-exempt groups that lobbied lawmakers and others, pushing for patients to have a increased access to pain medication. At trial, the plaintiffs said Teva, which took a dominant position in the generics market by buying smaller companies, had ignored red flags such as orders for oversized pills.