Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the biggest makers of generic opioids, says it has settled with about 2,500 local and state governments and tribes over the company’s role in the opioid epidemic. The settlement is in principle and is not yet final, the Department of Law said. Once the settlement is final, then it will be presented to the states, and the State will evaluate whether to sign on.
In 2021, as part of Alaska’s effort to address the state’s ongoing opioid epidemic, Attorney General Treg Taylor filed a civil lawsuit against opioid manufacturers Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Cephalon, Inc., Allergan plc, and some of their subsidiaries.
The Teva part of the settlement is worth about $4.25 billion among the many government entities that joined the suit, including Rhode Island, Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Alaska.
The Alaska lawsuit alleged that Teva and Allergan violated the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices Act by engaging in a deceptive marketing campaign that minimized the risks of opioids, especially the serious risks of addiction, and sought to convince doctors that there was a significant upside to their use for chronic non-cancer pain by exaggerating their purported benefits.
Alaska said that these opioid companies’ fraudulent marketing of branded and generic opioids played a significant role in transforming medical thinking about opioids, persuading doctors that the risk of addiction for legitimate pain patients is modest and manageable and outweighed by the benefits in reduced pain and improved quality of life for their patients.
The suit alleged that Teva and Allergan failed to control their supply of opioids into Alaska, in violation of state and federal law, and lacked an adequate system to monitor orders and investigate, report, and refuse to fill orders that they knew or should have known were suspicious.
According to data disclosed by the Drug Enforcement Agency in the opioid litigation, from 2006-2014, Teva and Allergan alone supplied over 46 million opioid pills to citizens of Alaska.
The increased volume of opioid prescriptions that resulted from the deceptive marketing is directly correlated to increased addiction, overdose, and death in Alaska, to an expansion of the black market for diverted prescription opioids, and an increase in heroin abuse by those who cannot afford—or legally acquire—prescription opioids, the Alaska and other suits alleged.
“While Teva and Allergan profited enormously from their deceptive marketing, the State of Alaska and its residents have experienced the consequences, including responding to the crisis and suffering from opioid addiction and overdose, and opioid-related crime and dislocation,” said Attorney General Treg Taylor last year. “Through this latest civil suit, we seek to hold these companies accountable for their conduct and the harm that they caused – and continue to cause – the State of Alaska, and to abate the public health epidemic that they helped create.”
“For the last two decades, the opioid epidemic has greatly impacted the lives and wellbeing of our communities,” said Commissioner Adam Crum, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services last year.
In 2019, Alaska experienced the second highest rate of overdose deaths in 10 years – 105 people lost their lives to overdoses involving opioids. However, the impacts extend far beyond lives lost. We see strained criminal justice, public assistance, social service, primary care, behavioral health, and emergency response systems in our communities. Moreover, in 2018 drug misuse had associative costs of $1.06 billion, with at least $69 million due to opioid use disorder and opioid-related incidents.”
The Attorney General’s Office previously sued now bankrupt opioid manufacturers, Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt. On October 25, 2018, the Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit against opioid distributors McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Drug Company, and subsequently added as defendants various members of McKesson’s Board of Directors and former Chief Executive Officer, John Hammergren. That lawsuit alleges that the three companies (and McKesson’s Directors and Officers) disregarded their obligations under Alaska law to report and halt suspicious orders and prevent diversion of prescription drugs. The companies’ motions to dismiss were denied, and the case is now moving towards trial.