Opioid Maker To Pay $85 Million To Oklahoma For Role In State’s Epidemic

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. has agreed to pay $85 million to settle an Oklahoma lawsuit which claims illegal marketing of their opioid painkillers contributed to an epidemic that amounts to a public health crisis in the state, Time reports.

The agreement was announced on Sunday and comes just a week before the case was scheduled to go to trial. Oklahoma had claimed that Teva, as well as co-defendant Johnson & Johnson, convinced doctors to write more prescriptions for opioid medications to treat problems for which they were not approved. This sort of questionable distribution has been a substantial cause of overdose deaths and drug addiction over the years.

As for Johnson & Johnson, the company Oklahoma has referred to as the “kingpin” of the United States opioid crisis, the trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

The terms of the settlement with Teva will likely take up to two weeks to finalize, with the money earmarked for use in abating the opioid crisis in the state, according to Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter.

Oklahoma was originally seeking at least $10 billion in damages and penalties, with the case acting as an initial foray into the use of public-nuisance laws against opioid distributors and manufacturers. So far 42 states and more than 1,600 local municipalities have sued companies in the industry for billions of dollars in damages.

The agreement with Teva comes two months after a similar agreement in which Purdue Pharma LP agreed to pay $270 million to the state. In the case of Purdue, Oklahoma was taking issue with sales pitches for their opioid-based painkiller, OxyContin. Purdue’s agreement came as part of an effort to relieve mounting liabilities that were threatening to push the company to the point of bankruptcy. The money paid to the state will be earmarked for treatment and research.

Oklahoma claimed that both Johnson & Johnson and Teva contributed to the creation of a public health crisis from opioid abuse that has killed thousands of its residents. In its lawsuit, the state accused the companies of exaggerating the benefits of the painkillers and downplaying the risks involved.

That deception, Oklahoma claims, has contributed to a “devastating cycle of over-prescription” that was “built on addiction, dependence and a market saturated with misinformation regarding the benefits and safety of those drugs.”

As The New York Times reports, the upcoming Johnson & Johnson litigation will represent the first of such cases actually going to trial.

“Nearly all Oklahomans have been negatively impacted by this deadly crisis and we look forward to Tuesday, where we will prove our case against Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries,” said Hunter as he looked ahead to the pending litigation.