New York hails $523M ‘landmark’ settlement on opioid crisis

Teva Pharmaceuticals has reached a settlement Thursday with the New York attorney general to pay up to $523 million for the part it played in perpetuating the opioid epidemic.

Set to be paid over a 13-year timeline, the agreement also bans the Tel Aviv, Israel-based Teva and its U.S. affiliates from selling high-dose opioids, limits its marketing and political lobbying efforts, and requires clinical data reporting.

Last year, a jury in New York found that Teva misled the public about how dangerous opioid drugs can be. This agreement resolves that case and adds the more than $200 million the company had already agreed to pay to New York as part of a $4 billion global settlement.

Out of the companies taken on by Attorney General Letitia James in the yearslong effort to hold drug companies responsible for practices that have fueled the opioid crisis, Teva is the last of the opioid distributors and manufacturers that isn’t in bankruptcy. The AG’s office reports raising $2 billion in all.

Opioids, which include fentanyl and oxycodone, contributed to a significant and increasing percentage of the nearly 1 million deaths from drug overdoses between 1999 and 2020, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“You cannot put a price on lives lost, addiction suffered, and families torn apart, but with the more than $2 billion we have now delivered to New Yorkers, we can continue to rebuild and recover,” James said in a statement. “This is a landmark day in our battle against the opioid crisis, and I am proud to be able to deliver critical funding and resources to the communities Teva and other companies ravaged with their rampant misconduct.”

The New York Department of Financial Services brought the civil charges in 2020, accusing Teva of stoking overprescription of opioids by misrepresenting their safety and efficacy.

Legislatures in Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties must still approve the agreement.

Earlier this year New York prosecutors mounted and won the first criminal trial against a pharmacy executive, with charges stemming from his role in perpetuating the opioid crisis. Laurence Doud faces a minimum of 10 years in federal prison after he was convicted of drug trafficking in Manhattan.

Doud told employees at his company, Rochester Drug Cooperative, to keep shipping opioids to pharmacies that placed suspicious orders, signaling they were diverting the painkillers from the legitimate health system to the streets. The jury found him guilty after 11 hours of deliberation.

Rochester Drug cooperative is also one of the companies named in a 2019 lawsuit filed by James, billed as the nation’s most expensive suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Defendants also included Johnson & Johnson and members of the billionaire Sackler family, who own OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma. Purdue filed for bankruptcy in September 2016 while facing some 2,600 lawsuits, mostly from state and local governments.

A representative for Teva did not immediately return a request for comment.

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