Pharma Companies, Pharmacies Agree to Pay $19B in Opioid Settlement

Pictured: Pills spilling out from a yellow container/iStock, Bet_Noire

Pictured: Pills spilling out from a yellow container/iStock, Bet_Noire 

Pharmacies and drug manufacturers will pay state and local governments an additional $18.75 billion to settle lawsuits alleging that they drove the opioid epidemic, according to a report by The Washington Post published Friday.

At the center of the lawsuits are drugmakers Allergan and Teva Pharmaceuticals, along with retail chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. Separately, on Friday, Walgreens also signed off on a $500 million settlement with New Mexico over alleged lax supervision of opioid prescriptions.

Nearly every state opted into this most recent round of settlements, along with more than 3,400 counties, cities and other local agencies. The payout, which will start rolling out later this year, was calculated considering the population adjusted by the consequences of the opioid crisis, according to The Post.

Illinois, for example, will get $518 million to be dispensed over 15 years.

Under the nationwide agreement, at least 85% of the awarded settlement funds should be used to stop the opioid crisis and help communities cope with its effects. The drug companies and pharmacies are also required to update their opioid practices, including implementing better monitoring systems to better protect the public.

The nearly $19 billion settlement comes more than a year after AbbVie (through Allergan) and Teva were set to pay some $5 billion to settle about 3,500 opioid lawsuits. In May 2022, a Bloomberg report cited three unnamed sources who indicated that the companies were considering a settlement, though neither made any formal confirmation.

In a statement released Thursday, Teva announced it had fully resolved its nationwide settlement agreement regarding the opioid cases, with the final payment slated for the second half of 2023. The company has also started shipping out its nasal spray Narcan for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose.

Teva has also arrived at a separate agreement with Nevada, to which it will pay $193 million over 20 years. According to Teva's statement, these arrangements do not constitute an admission of wrongdoing.

Alongside Teva and AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson has also been contending with an onslaught of opioid lawsuits. In February 2022, the pharma company, along with distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, agreed to resolve the allegations for $26 billion. J&J’s share in this payout is $5 billion.

J&J has also previously signed settlements with New York, Texas, Nevada and New Mexico.

Tristan Manalac is an independent science writer based in metro Manila, Philippines. He can be reached at tristan@tristanmanalac.com or tristan.manalac@biospace.com.

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