Teva reaches preliminary $4.25 billion settlement over opioids

Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the nation’s largest makers of generic opioids, announced a showdown with about 2,500 local, state and tribal governments over the company’s role in the deadly, ongoing opioid epidemic.

The deal – worth up to $4.25 billion – came after a series of fierce lawsuits and earlier 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 height of the crisis than marquee opioid manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson did. Its production of both generic and branded painkillers eclipsed that of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, the drug most immediately linked to setting off an avalanche of overdoses and deaths.

Under the agreement, Teva would make payments over 13 years directed to state, local and tribal programs to ease 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 lawsuits began in San Francisco, as well as in Florida, West Virginia, Texas, Louisiana and Rhode Island.

States and communities may choose to accept a portion of their payments in overdose reversal drugs instead of cash.

The agreement was negotiated by representatives of about a dozen state attorneys general. “Today’s announcement shows once again that those responsible for this tragic issue will be held accountable and help will be available for those affected by the opioid epidemic,” said Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, whose office was involved in the negotiations. in a statement.

Teva said in a statement: “While the settlement will not include any admission of wrongdoing, it remains in our best interest to put these matters 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 be set aside for fees for lawyers who, starting in 2013, brought the cases against the company.

In 2016, Teva acquired Actavis, a generic unit of Allergan. In order for Teva’s agreement to be completed, Allergan must also enter into a settlement with these plaintiffs. Lawyers familiar with negotiations said they expected the announcement to be made soon.

The deal is also contingent on an overwhelming majority of state, local and tribal governments voting in favor of it.

Lawyers on an executive committee that negotiates for local governments urged everyone to back the hard-fought agreement: “We encourage all of these groups to sign this agreement to allow these resources to get into the hands of those who need them as soon as possible.” they said in a statement.

While that outcome seems likely, one participating state, among the dozen that negotiated the terms, has yet to sign on: New York, along with Nassau and Suffolk counties, which won against Teva in a civil jury trial in December last year. Under the shadow of a second phase of this lawsuit to determine financial remedies, New York is still in negotiations with the company, a spokeswoman for the New York attorney general’s office said.

Eliciting an acceptable offer from Teva has been a particularly protracted battle for the states, tribes and municipalities that filed lawsuits against it. While Purdue Pharma, for example, has often been associated with inflated and misleading marketing of its brand-name drugs to physicians, generic drug manufacturers do not make formal sales calls to them. Teva maintained that it did not market its opioids to physicians.

One of Teva’s initial settlement offers in 2019 consisted almost entirely of medicine along with a small amount of cash. While Johnson & Johnson and the three drug distributors that also participated in the early offer went on to reach a deal two years later, Teva continued to litigate.

But in December 2020, the Senate Finance Committee released findings that were particularly critical of Teva, among other manufacturers, for the millions of dollars it paid to tax-exempt groups that lobbied lawmakers and others pushing for greater patient access to painkillers. During the lawsuit, the plaintiffs said Teva, which built a dominant position in the generics market by buying smaller companies, had ignored red flags such as large pill orders.

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