Teva agrees to $85 million settlement in opioid public nuisance case
Generic opioid manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and a group of affiliated drug companies have agreed to pay $85 million to settle their portion of a lawsuit in which they and other drug companies were accused of creating a multibillion-dollar public nuisance that led to thousands of Oklahoma deaths and addictions.
Details of the settlement are still being worked out, but are expected to be finalized within two weeks and submitted to Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman for approval, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced Sunday.
The agreement was announced just two days before the drug companies were scheduled to go to trial.
Affiliated companies covered by the agreement include Teva; Cephalon Inc.; Watson Laboratories Inc.; Actavis LLC; and Actavis Pharma Inc., all of which will be dropped from the state's lawsuit, Hunter said.
Hunter expects the settlement to be paid in cash, shortly after the agreement is finalized. Consistent with wishes expressed by the state Legislature, the money will go to the state treasury, where it will be used to abate the state's opioid crisis, he said.
Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals head another group of opioid manufacturers that are still set to go to trial at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Cleveland County District Court, barring another last-minute settlement.
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the state’s legal team’s countless hours and resources preparing for this trial and their dedication and resolve to hold the defendants in this case accountable for the ongoing opioid overdose and addiction epidemic that continues to claim thousands of lives each year,” Hunter said Sunday. “Nearly all Oklahomans have been negatively impacted by this deadly crisis and we look forward to Tuesday, where we will prove our case against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries."
Teva released a prepared statement Sunday that stressed the settlement was not an admission of improper acts.
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"The settlement does not establish any wrongdoing on the part of the company," Teva stated. "Teva has not contributed to the abuse of opioids in Oklahoma in any way."
Teva said it resolved its part of the lawsuit to help "people who have suffered from abuse of opioids and to help stop the effects of the opioid crisis."'
Teva continues to keep the long-term stability of the company at the forefront, the company said.
"While the company has long stated that the courtroom is not a place to address the crisis, Teva is pleased to put the Oklahoma case behind it and remains prepared to vigorously defend claims against the company, including the upcoming federal court trial in Cleveland where the majority of the cases are pending," the company said.
The state will allocate the payment made by Teva at its discretion, including for payment of its fees and costs in connection with the settlement, Teva said. Private attorneys working for the state will receive 15 percent of the settlement amount under a contingency fee agreement.
The Oklahoma cities and counties that have chosen to sue opioid manufacturers separately will not be bound by terms of the settlement, attorneys have said.
Nationwide, opioids were involved in more than 47,000 overdose deaths in 2017 alone, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 2011 to 2015, more than 2,100 Oklahomans died of an unintentional prescription opioid overdoes, state attorneys reported.
Hunter sued more than a dozen opioid manufacturers, accusing them of causing the opioid crisis through misleading marketing campaigns that understated the addictive properties of the powerful painkillers while overstating their therapeutic benefits.
Attorneys for the state say they expect it will take between $12.7 billion and $17.5 billion over a 20- to 30-year period to abate Oklahoma's opioid problem.
Purdue Pharma previously agreed to pay a $270 million settlement to get its companies dropped from the Oklahoma case. The bulk of that money, about $200 million, was designated to go to the Oklahoma State University Center for Wellness and Recovery in Tulsa to establish a national center on addiction modeled after the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
BREAKING || We have agreed to an $85 million settlement agreement with Israeli-based Teva Pharmaceuticals for its role in fueling the state’s opioid epidemic.— Mike Hunter (@AGMikeHunter) May 26, 2019
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