Nearly 10 million Americans abused prescription opioids in 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Between 1999-2019, about 500,000 Americans overdosed on addictive pain relief drugs like methadone, Oxycontin and Vicodin. Cities and communities across the country continue to cope with the extensive damage caused by opioid addiction and abuse. Many have turned to the law to seek damages from drug manufacturers, pharmacies and distributors. Some states are beginning to reach settlements with these responsible parties.
Florida Opioid Settlement
Last month, drug manufacturer Endo International plc agreed to pay $65 million to resolve more than 3,400 lawsuits filed against them by the state of Florida and local governments for their role in the U.S. opioid crisis. This agreement was the most recent of several settlements by Endo and included no admission of wrongdoing. Endo has faced similar lawsuits across the U.S. They allege that Endo contributed to opioid abuse by utilizing deceptive marketing practices for Opana ER, a pain medication the company no longer makes.
Last December, Endo agreed to pay $63 million to resolve lawsuits filed by the state of Texas and local municipalities. As with the Florida settlement, Endo admitted no wrongdoing. The Texas agreement included language that could come into play should Endo declare bankruptcy in order to avoid future litigation.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the settlement in a public statement.
“This settlement is a necessary step in the right direction, and we will continue to fight to heal our state from this devastating crisis,” he said.
New York Settlement
In September 2021, New York state and two counties agreed to settle with Endo International for $50 million. Endo and its subsidiary, Par, paid $22.3 million to the New York Attorney General’s Office and $13.85 million each to Suffolk and Nassau counties, again noting that neither company admits any wrongdoing.
“This agreement ensures funding will be made available for critical abatement programs in a more expedited fashion,” said Jayne Conroy, lead attorney for Suffolk County.
Last summer, Endo agreed to settle a lawsuit filed in 2017 on behalf of 18 cities, nine counties, and one child born addicted to painkillers in Tennessee. The $35 million settlement was proposed before the case went to court. The plaintiffs were initially expected to seek over $2 billion in damages during the trial. They claim that Endo downplayed the risks of Opana ER, which was removed from the market in 2017. Also named in the suit were Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt Plc, a generic opioid manufacturer. Since both companies have filed for bankruptcy, Endo was the only remaining active defendant.
Settlements continue to crop up as states and local municipalities continue to challenge drug companies on their liability in the opioid crisis. Three major U.S. drug distributors – McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Health Inc. – and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson are proceeding with a massive $26 billion settlement that will include 42 states, five territories and Washington, D.C.
The deal is intended to resolve lawsuits alleging that the companies ignored warning signs that their painkillers were being diverted illegally into communities and that Johnson & Johnson purposely played down the risks of opioid addiction. If successful, the money would fund drug abuse and addiction treatment.