Several Opioid Manufacturers Look to Settle Opioid-Related Lawsuits

Several large pharmaceutical companies are in negotiations to resolve the thousands of lawsuits filed against them for their roles in the opioid crisis.

Recently, in the first case against a drug manufacturer for damages related to the U.S. opioid epidemic, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $572 million to the state of Oklahoma to help with recovery from the devastation. Initially, Oklahoma had sought $17 billion to pay for a 30-year plan to combat the crisis. Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal this decision.

In his ruling, Judge Thad Balkman said the company “caused an opioid crisis that is evidenced by increased rates of addiction, overdose deaths, and neonatal abstinence syndrome in Oklahoma.”

In other lawsuits, OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma and its founders, the Sackler family, are offering to make payments of up to $12 billion, as well as forfeit ownership of the company through a bankruptcy process, to settle claims that they deceptively marketed prescription opioids while misleading prescribers and consumers about risks from their prolonged use. Purdue and the Sackler family deny these allegations.

“For years, members of the Sackler family tried to hide their role in creating and profiting off the opioid epidemic,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. “We owe it to families in Massachusetts and across the country to hold Purdue and the Sacklers accountable, ensure that the evidence of what they did is made public, and make them pay for the damage they have caused.”

Allergan has agreed to pay $5 million in settlements in Ohio – $1.9 million to Summit County and $3.1 million to Cuyahoga County – as part of a landmark federal opioid trial beginning in October. Endo International has agreed to pay $10 million to two counties in Ohio. Both companies face further state, individual, and government cases.

Sources: NPR, August 28, 2019; Reuters, August 27, 2019; The Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2019.