What’s going on in the US with big pharma and opioids

This past year there has been a huge wave of lawsuits and backlash against big pharma companies for their responsibility in exacerbating the opioid crisis in America.

A multitude of companies have been blamed and been taken to court, incuding companies such as Teva Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Mylan, Amneal, Endo Pharmaceuticals and ‘Kingpin’ of the opioid crisis Johnson&Johnson. Both Teva and Purdue pharma settled with Ohio state as the case approached trial and both Allergan and Endo settled with two Ohio counties for a combined $16m.

However, the state attorney is not letting Allergan and Endo of the hook, with the state of Ohio planning to fully prosecute both companies. Ohio’s state Attorney General said in a statement “No settlement with any political subdivision(s) relieves Allergan PLC of any liability to the state for any claim that Ohio has brought.”

Endo’s $10m settlement with two Ohio states acted as a bellwether case for the massive multidistrict litigation involving around 1,600 counties and cities. A bellwether trial is a test case intended to trial a widely contested issue. According to analysts, this Endo settlement could come as a relief to companies and offers a breath of fresh air for companies facing the prospect of bankruptcy. This good news carried out to Allergan, which agreed to a $6m deal.
However, the prospect for Teva pharmaceuticals is uncertain, with the company previously reaching an $85m deal with the state of Oklahoma. But it is unclear how the global settlement would allocate damages.

Oklahoma has not shied away from taking the battle to the big pharma companies with the county taking J&J to court. Oklahoma has labelled J&J as the ‘kingpin’ of the state’s opioid crisis in the first ever bench trial assessing whether a drug maker fueled an epidemic. The results of the case are set to be announced this coming Monday and the verdict could inform the chances of 1,600 consolidated lawsuits against opioid makers. J&J’s fault comes from its “deceitful, multibillion-dollar brainwashing campaign” to boost sales of its powerful and potentially addictive opioids. The Attorney General said J&J driven by corporate greed induced doctors to boost opioid prescriptions to treat unapproved ailments.

J&J has said in its defense: “Not once did the state identify a single Oklahoma doctor who was misled by a single Janssen statement, nor did it prove that Janssen misleadingly marketed opioids or caused any harm in Oklahoma.”

The state went on to say that J&J scientists created a mutant poppy strain in 1994 that allowed the company to produce mass quantities of opioids. J&J then went on to conduct ‘a decade and a half long’ unbranded marketing campaign to pitch opioid drugs as safe for everyday pain. J&J has rebuked these claims saying that operations were heavily regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency and that it held a ‘miniscule’ fraction of the opioid prescription market.

The decision on Monday could have major consequences for not only opioid crisis in the US but also overseas as well as other countries acquire their own opioid addiction problems.

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