Averting opioid trial, Teva, drug distributors reach last-gasp settlement

Under the agreement, Teva would donate Suboxone tablets up to the amount needed to meet the majority of the currently estimated US patient need over the next 10 years, valued at approximately $23b.

The CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Kare Schultz speaks during a news conference to discuss the company's 2019 outlooks in Tel Aviv, Israel February 19, 2019 (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
The CEO of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Kare Schultz speaks during a news conference to discuss the company's 2019 outlooks in Tel Aviv, Israel February 19, 2019
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Leading Israeli drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and three other large drug companies secured an eleventh-hour $260 million settlement on Monday over their alleged role in the US opioid crisis, avoiding a bellwether federal trial in Cleveland at the last minute.
The settlement averted proceedings brought by two Ohio counties that was widely considered to pave the way for more than 2,600 opioid-related claims submitted by state, local and tribal governments, hospitals and other entities to courts across the United States.
As part of the settlement, debt-laden Teva said it will pay $20 million in cash and donate $25m. of Suboxone, a prescription medicine used to treat opioid addiction, over the course of three years.
Drug distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen also reached a settlement with the counties, worth a total of $215m.
A new trial date for the remaining defendant, Illinois-headquartered drug store owner Walgreens Boots Alliance, will be arranged in due course.
Teva said that it had also reached an agreement in principle with a group of attorneys general from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, as well as certain defendants, for a global settlement framework.
Under the agreement, Teva would donate Suboxone tablets up to the amount needed to meet the majority of the currently estimated US patient need over the next 10 years, valued at approximately $23b.
The company would also provide $250m. in cash over 10 years.
Teva “is pleased to positively contribute to solving the nationwide opioid epidemic,” the company said in a statement. “Teva has consistently committed to complying with all laws and regulations regarding its manufacture and sale of opioids. Neither settlement includes an admission of liability.”
Since 1999, approximately 400,000 Americans have died from an opioid overdose, including prescription and illicit opioids.
According to government health figures, around 68% of more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths in 2017 involved an opioid.
The number of overdose deaths involving both prescription and illicit opioids was six times higher than in 1999.
Teva reached an agreement in May with the State of Oklahoma to resolve the state’s claims against the company.
The one-time payment of $85m. to the state “does not establish any wrongdoing on the part of the company,” and that it had not contributed to opioid abuse in Oklahoma in any way, said Teva.
The settlements announced on Monday follow agreements worth $66.4m. reached by the Ohio counties with four other drug companies, including Johnson & Johnson.
Earlier this month, J&J said it would pay $20.4 million to settle claims by the two Ohio counties.
The judge overseeing the case, Dan Polster, urged the parties to continue toward a broader deal covering all the lawsuits. “I did not encourage a settlement of this case only,” Polster said in court on Monday.
On Friday, talks collapsed with the same defendants that were aimed at reaching a broader $48b. settlement covering thousands of lawsuits filed by counties, towns and states from across the country over the crisis.
The lawsuits accuse drug makers of overstating the benefits of opioids while downplaying the risks.
Distributors allegedly failed to flag and halt a rising tide of suspicious orders, shipping vast amounts of the pills across the country.
Drugmakers have denied wrongdoing, arguing their products carried US Food and Drug Administration- approved labels that warned of the addictive risks of opioids.
They say they did not cause the terrible toll the epidemic has had on states and localities.
Distributors have said that they made up only “one component of the pharmaceutical supply chain,” and their role was to make sure medicines prescribed by licensed doctors were available for patients.


Tags opioids Ohio