Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals has agreed to pay Oklahoma $85 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the state’s attorney general over the company’s involvement in fueling the opioid epidemic.
The settlement was announced on Sunday by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, ahead of a much-anticipated trial on Tuesday against the country’s largest drug manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson.
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the state’s legal team’s countless hours and resources preparing for this trial and their dedication and resolve to hold the defendants in this case accountable for the ongoing opioid overdose and addiction epidemic that continues to claim thousands of lives each year,” Hunter said in a statement.
He added, “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.”
Teva, meanwhile, acknowledged it had agreed to make the one-time payment, but it said the settlement did not establish wrongdoing by the company. “Teva has not contributed to the abuse of opioids in Oklahoma in any way,” the company said in a statement following Sunday’s announcement.
Teva is the second company named in the lawsuit that settled. Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin and was the lawsuit’s primary target, settled out of court on March 26 by agreeing to pay the state $270 million in damages. In reporting on that agreement, The Washington Post called it the beginning of the “reckoning for the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history.”
The two companies’ payments will be used to fund the Oklahoma State University Center for Wellness and Recovery and to compensate local cities and towns affected by opioid-related litigation.
On Tuesday, the state’s landmark trial against Johnson & Johnson is set to begin. In that case, which will be televised, Oklahoma’s attorney general will argue that two of the company’s subsidiaries supplied and improved the narcotic ingredients for a large percentage of the country’s prescription opioid supply, the Post reported.
The state also says Johnson & Johnson targeted children in its marketing for the opioids, a claim the company denies.
“Johnson & Johnson helped create the worst public health crisis in United States history,” attorney Bradley Beckworth told the newspaper. “They grew the demand. They spread the lies and they fed it with their own product.”
According to the Post, state lawyers will try to convince a judge that Johnson & Johnson “has been a behind-the-scenes kingpin in the crisis.”
Meanwhile, Teva, which primarily focuses on generic drugs, was named in another lawsuit earlier this month brought by 40 states against 20 companies for alleged price-fixing. The lawsuit, led by the Connecticut attorney general’s office, accuses the companies of conspiring to keep generic drug prices artificially high.
Teva pulled in about $18.9 billion in revenue last year. Johnson & Johnson reported $81.6 billion in global sales last year.
According to one analyst, Teva could be sued for $3.1 billion in damages in the latest case.