As One Opioid Trial Begins, a Second Drugmaker Settles With Oklahoma for $85M

In a statement, Teva said the settlement does not establish any wrongdoing on its part. “Teva has not contributed to the abuse of opioids in Oklahoma in any way.”
by | May 29, 2019 AT 8:38 AM
A Teva Pharmaceuticals building in the Netherlands. (Shutterstock)

By Christine Vestal

On the eve of today’s opioid trial in Oklahoma, a second drugmaker has settled with the state. On Sunday morning, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, a Republican, announced an $85 million settlement agreement with Israeli-based Teva Pharmaceuticals for its alleged part in the state’s opioid crisis.

In March, OxyContin maker Perdue Pharma, the lead defendant in the Oklahoma case, settled with the state for $270 million. The state’s case, in which opening arguments are being heard today in the Cleveland County District Court, now focuses on the role Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals played in the epidemic.

In a statement, Teva said the settlement does not establish any wrongdoing on its part. “Teva has not contributed to the abuse of opioids in Oklahoma in any way.”

Teva said it had resolved the case “in a way that benefits the people who have suffered from abuse of opioids and to help stop the effects of the opioid crisis.”

The Oklahoma trial — which will be live-streamed and open to the public — precedes a consolidated, multi-state federal opioid lawsuit slated for trial in Ohio this fall. In that case, Purdue and other drugmakers face claims from more than 1,600 cities, counties, states and Native American tribes, and the U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief.

The lawsuits seek to hold drug companies responsible for the worst drug overdose epidemic in the nation’s history.

From 1999 to 2017, nearly 400,000 people died from overdoses involving a prescription opioid or heroin and other illicit opioids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 218,000 of those deaths were directly related to prescription opioids. And the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic of the last decade has cost the nation an estimated $79 billion a year.

According to Hunter, the proceeds of the settlement will go directly to state coffers to “abate the opioid crisis.” He said the terms of the agreement will be announced in about two weeks.

“Nearly all Oklahomans have been negatively impacted by this deadly crisis and we look forward to Tuesday (May 28), where we will prove our case against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries,” Hunter said in a statement.

Stateline | Nonpartisan, Nonprofit News Service of the Pew Charitable Trusts | editor@stateline.org  |  @pewstates