Opioid Manufacturers Reach Settlements in State Lawsuits

Large drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma has agreed to pay $10 billion to settle more than 2,600 lawsuits filed by states, cities, counties, individuals, and institutions over damages caused by the opioid epidemic. In another case, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $572 million to the state of Oklahoma to help with recovery from the devastation.

Allergan has agreed to pay $5 million in settlements in Ohio – $1.9 million to Summit County and $3.1 million to Cuyahoga County, while Endo International has agreed to pay $10 million to two counties in Ohio. Both companies face further state, individual, and government cases.

The lawsuits allege that opioid manufacturers such as Purdue (which produces OxyContin) used deceptive marketing tactics that misled prescribers and consumers about risks of painkillers’ prolonged use, causing a massive increase in supply that distributors and pharmacies didn’t do enough to stop.

Purdue collected billions of dollars in profit for opioid sales over two decades, making its founders one of the richest families in the U.S. In the settlement, the Sackler family has agreed to pay $3 billion from their personal fortune, as well as up to $1.5 billion from the sale of their non-U.S. pharmaceutical companies. The company has filed for bankruptcy, proposing the business be turned into a “public benefit trust” that would produce opioids, addiction treatment drugs, and overdose antidotes. The business will continue to operate as usual while it pursues Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Twenty-four U.S. states oppose the tentative deal and several plan to continue taking legal action against Purdue and the Sacklers.

As these lawsuits continue, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to offer states more than $1.8 billion in new funding to expand treatment access to reverse opioid overdoses and gather case data. The funding includes $900 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help states track overdose data; in addition, the HHS’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will provide around $932 million toward opioid addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

Sources: NPR, September 9, 2019; The Washington Post, September 11, 2019; The New York Times, September 15, 2019; AP News, September 17, 2019.