A large pharmaceutical manufacturer has agreed to pay $200 million in a settlement reached just before closing arguments began in a monthslong opioid trial in New York, the state’s attorney general announced on Wednesday.
The settlement with Allergan, a company that has made opioids but whose most well-known product is Botox, is the latest agreement in a trial jointly argued by New York State and two counties that began in June. The case was the first of its kind brought against the entire opioid supply chain, from pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the pills to the distributors and pharmacy chains that filled the prescriptions.
Other defendants in the sprawling case, such as Johnson & Johnson and the pharmacy chain CVS, agreed to multimillion-dollar settlements, before and during the trial. In July, three of the drug distributors settled for more than $1 billion combined as part of an overarching $26 billion nationwide deal to settle a raft of more than 3,000 lawsuits filed by tribes, states and municipalities that said various companies helped foster a drug crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans in the last decade.
In the New York trial, only two companies, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., a manufacturer, and Anda Inc., one of its subsidiary companies that distributes drugs to pharmacies, remain defendants. The state and Nassau and Suffolk Counties jointly argued the case in New York State Supreme Court in Central Islip on Long Island.
“For more than two decades, opioids have wreaked havoc on New Yorkers and Americans across the nation — causing pain, addiction and death,” Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Our ongoing trial has been about the role companies like Allergan and its predecessors played in helping grow this epidemic, profiting while Americans suffered.”
Last year, a record number of people, more than 100,000, died of overdoses from prescription and black-market opioids as well as synthetic versions like fentanyl, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As part of the settlement, Allergan will be barred from selling opioids in New York for the next 10 years. Katharine Nichols, a spokeswoman for AbbVie, the parent company, said that in 2020 Allergan had already voluntarily discontinued its branded prescription opioid business, which according to the company made up less than 1 percent of prescriptions nationwide.
In New York, the settlements could reach $1.7 billion if certain conditions are met, and the money will be distributed to communities hit by the opioid crisis. The money will be used to pay for addiction prevention programs and treatment services, according to the attorney general’s office, in an effort to mitigate the harm that lawyers argued the companies caused.
“Throughout the trial, we’ve heard just how devastating the opioid epidemic has been in terms of lives lost and the broader impact addiction has on families and communities,” said Jayne Conroy, the lead counsel hired by Suffolk County, where over 3,000 people have died in the last 10 years from overdoses, according to county data.
“To be able to bring a settlement like this back to communities like Suffolk County that have been hit so hard is rewarding, but also a stark reminder of how much has already been lost,” Ms. Conroy said in an email.
Allergan is expected to pay the $200 million, which also includes legal fees, by the middle of 2022, according to the attorney general’s office. More than $150 million will go toward opioid abatement initiatives.
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