USA: Rise in opioids deaths leads state officials to file claims against drug firms and distributors

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Article
17 February 2020

USA: 21 states reject $18 billion proposal to settle opioid lawsuits in hopes of higher compensation

Author: Tom Hals & Diane Bartz, Reuters

"U.S. states reject $18 billion proposal to settle opioid lawsuits, discussions ongoing: sources," 14 Feb 2020

Twenty one states have rejected an $18 billion settlement proposal from three major U.S. drug distributors to resolve lawsuits over their alleged role in the opioid crisis, but discussion are still active, according to three sources familiar with the matter...

More than 2,500 lawsuits have been brought nationwide by states, local and tribal governments over the toll the opioid crisis has taken on their communities... 

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the states objected to a settlement offer sent to the companies’ law firms earlier this week, and were pushing for a larger payment... 

The states want the companies - AmerisourceBergen Corp, McKesson Corp and Cardinal Health Inc - to pay between $22 billion and $32 billion, the WSJ reported...

Some 400,000 U.S. overdose deaths between 1997 and 2017 were linked to opioids, according to government data... 

The lawsuits accuse drugmakers of deceptively marketing opioids in ways that downplayed their risks, and drug distributors of failing to detect and halt suspicious orders. The companies have denied any wrongdoing...

Shares of the three distributors, which together handle about 85% of the U.S. prescription drug market, were down less than 1%... 

A trial is scheduled to begin on March 20 in which the state of New York and the counties of Suffolk and Nassau are suing drug distributors, drugmakers such as Johnson & Johnson and pharmacy chains including CVS Health Corp... 

The rejection letter was signed by attorneys general for 21 states as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia...

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Article
2 January 2020

Pharmacies Must Produce 14 Years Of Opioid Records In Multi-District Litigation

Author: Ryan Boysen, Law360

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Some of the nation’s largest pharmacy chains must turn over an unprecedented 14 years’ worth of nationwide opioid prescription records to the cities and counties suing them for billions over their role in the opioid epidemic, the Ohio federal judge overseeing the sprawling multidistrict litigation has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster’s short Dec. 30 order means that Walgreen Co., CVS Health Corp., Rite-Aid Corp., Walmart Inc. and other pharmacy retailers will have to produce records dating back to 2006 that will show how many customers obtained opioids from them and what safeguards were in place to ensure those prescriptions were legitimate, medically necessary and complied with the Controlled Substances Act, among other things.

The pharmacies, which have unsuccessfully sought to remove Judge Polster from the massive MDL and complained that he makes decisions before allowing them to weigh in, contested the sweeping discovery order, calling it “vast and unprecedented.”

An information technology executive at Walmart said in a declaration that the retail giant “has never previously attempted to” produce “dispensing data on the scale contemplated by the order.”

 

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Article
30 December 2019

USA: 2020 may bring even more nationwide opioid-related litigation

Author: Eric Heisig, Cleveland.com

"Here’s what to expect from the opioid litigation in Cleveland, other states in 2020" 27 Dec 2019

While 2019 was a big year for drug companies facing lawsuits nationwide over the massive opioid epidemic, next year could be even bigger.

Lawsuits that seek to hold drug companies accountable for thousands of overdoses deaths are scheduled to go to trial in 2020. If 2019 was any indication of the outcome, the looming trials set to take place in a federal court in Cleveland and in other parts of the country mean drug companies will face more pressure to reach settlements to avoid the specter of large jury verdicts.

The lawsuits largely accuse drug manufacturers of downplaying the risks of addictive opioid medication and distributors of missing the warning signs that suspicious and excessive orders of painkillers were going to all parts of the country. Pharmacy companies also face allegations that they dispensed excessively large amounts of prescription painkillers while more and more people died of overdose deaths...

In 2020, the judge is expected to continue to push for a settlement to resolve all the cases. Negotiations for such a global settlement have taken place and are expected to continue...

The cases, like the one set for Cleveland, are designed to lead into so-called “bellwether trials,” or test trials designed to show how a jury may react to similar claims or whether the litigation will lead to settlements.

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Article
21 October 2019

USA: Top drug distributors settle opioid lawsuit for $260 million

Author: Associated Press

"Companies Reach $260 Million Deal to Settle Opioids Lawsuit", 21 Oct 2019

The nation’s three dominant drug distributors and a big drugmaker have reached a $260 million deal to settle a lawsuit related to the opioid crisis just as the first federal trial over the crisis was due to begin Monday...

The settlement means the closely watched trial will not move forward now, but it does not resolve more than 2,600 other lawsuits across the country seeking to hold the drug industry accountable for an opioid crisis...

The settlement ends only the suits brought by the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit...

After the new settlements and previous ones with five other drugmakers, the only defendant left in the trial that had been scheduled for Monday is the pharmacy chain Walgreens. The new plan is for Walgreens and other pharmacies to go to trial within six months if they don’t reach settlements first.

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Article
15 October 2019

USA: Top drug distributors may settle opioid lawsuits for billions

Author: CNBC (USA)

"Top drug distributors in talks to settle opioid litigation for $18 billion, report says", 15 Oct 2019

State and local officials are reportedly in talks with three major drug distributors on a potential $18 billion settlement of litigation that blames them for helping to fuel the U.S. opioid epidemic.

The potential settlement...would require McKessonAmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health to collectively pay the $18 billion over 18 years...

States, local governments and Native American tribes have filed some 2,000 opioid lawsuits against the distributors, drugmakers and other companies public officials say contributed to the opioid crisis...

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma said it reached its own tentative agreement last month to settle much of its outstanding opioid litigation. The deal is going to cost the company and its billionaire owners, the Sackler family, about $10 billion...

 

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Article
21 May 2019

USA: Painkiller maker Purdue Pharma sued by 5 additional states over alleged misconduct in opioids marketing & sales

Author: Joanna Walters, Guardian (UK)

"Five more US states sue Purdue Pharma over its role in opioid crisis"

Five more US states sued the painkiller maker Purdue Pharma on Thursday, alleging misconduct in the marketing and sales of opioids such as the company’s highly profitable OxyContin narcotic.

Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and West Virginia filed separate but similar lawsuits, bringing the number of states suing the pharmaceutical company to 45, over its alleged role in the US opioids crisis that has caused thousands of drug overdose deaths. Pennsylvania sued the company two days ago, while New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on Wednesday joined a host of cultural and academic institutions in announcing it would stop accepting philanthropy from the Sackler family members behind Purdue Pharma...

The five states that filed on Thursday are also suing Richard Sackler, who was previously Purdue’s co-chairman and president and is one of the leading members of the Sackler family who wholly own the private company...

Sackler has been sued in several other such lawsuits in recent months and Purdue is also being sued by more than 1,500 cities and counties from all across the US.

West Virginia’s lawsuit alleges Purdue Pharma aggressively pushed false claims and deceptive practices, even in the past training new marketing employees with the advertising motto: “We sell hope in a bottle.”

“This lawsuit reveals many years of painstaking investigation,” West Virginia’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, said. “The senseless death and ruined lives of untold thousands must stop.”...

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Article
5 June 2018

Drugmakers, in Bid to Extinguish Opioid Suits, Say There's No 'Viable Legal Theory'

Author: Amanda Bronstad, National Law Review (USA)

Drug companies defending opioid lawsuits have fired back in the federal court handling the sprawling litigation...The companies—manufacturers and distributors of the prescription painkillers, and retail pharmacies—outlined their defenses in motions to dismiss lawsuits brought by the cities of Cleveland and Chicago, and two Ohio counties... U.S. District Judge Dan Polster...overseeing multidistrict litigation over the opioid crisis...selected those cases for limited discovery...[P]laintiffs amended many of the complaints last month after getting information from a drug database controlled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.  That prompted motions to dismiss filed by manufacturers Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Allergan, Insys Therapeutics Inc., Mallinckrodt and Noramco; distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp.; and four pharmacies: Rite Aid Corp., Walgreens, Walmart Inc. and CVS.  Most of the defendants have publicly insisted they weren’t to blame for the opioid epidemic.  In motions filed on May 25, the defendants generally alleged the cities and counties lacked standing to sue in federal courts—either because they had no authority or failed to allege the appropriate injuries in order to do so.  They also argued that since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved opioids, federal regulations pre-empted the state law claims...Here are some additional arguments in the motions:

    Opioids come with clear risks of addiction and overdose.
    The complaints fail to allege a specific misrepresentation on which a doctor relied in writing an opioid prescription.
    Companies had a duty to the DEA, not the plaintiffs, to monitor suspicious drug orders.
    Plaintiffs failed to allege unjust enrichment because they conferred no benefit on the companies.
    Participation in a trade association did not show a civil conspiracy among the companies.

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Article
7 May 2018

Opioid litigation-funding deals are up for federal judge's review

Author: Jef Feeley, Andrew M Harris, Bloomberg (USA)

The judge overseeing more than 600 lawsuits targeting opioid makers is demanding local governments’ lawyers turn over information about any litigation-funding agreements and provide assurance that lenders won’t gain control over legal strategy or settlements.  U.S. District Judge Dan Polster...issued the order...saying he wants to ensure the agreements don’t create conflicts of interest by affecting plaintiffs lawyers’ judgments in pursuing cases against opioid makers, such as Purdue Pharma LLP and Johnson & Johnson, and distributors such as McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc.  It would be improper for such financing agreements to give lenders “any control over litigation strategy or settlement decisions,’’ Polster said in the order.  At least two litigation-funding firms have ties to lawyers driving the opioid cases.  Such firms provide financing for what may be costly litigation in return for sharing in a verdict or settlement...Polster-ordered settlement talks between pharma companies and local governments continue while both sides prepare for the first trial next year.  State attorneys general also are holding separate settlement negotiations...Polster...wants to know details of any lending arrangements, and he requested sworn statements from the lawyers and lenders that there won’t be any conflicts of interest and that the lenders won’t have control over strategy, advocacy or settlement decisions...

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Article
2 May 2018

Big Pharma must face lawsuit over opioids in Delaware, judge rules

Author: Brittany Horn, The News Journal via Delaware online (USA)

A lawsuit against Big Pharma will stay in Delaware Superior Court despite the efforts of a drug distributor to have the case moved into federal court — where many of these suits are being heard and consolidated into one larger case.  United States District Court Judge Richard Andrews issued the order...in regard to Delaware's case against drug manufacturers, distributors and drugstores...McKesson Corp., a wholesale drug distributor...argued that the charges it faces...fall under the Federal Controlled Substances Act and should not be heard in state court, according to the court filing.  The judge...disagreed...The ruling is significant...as many of these cases...have reached the federal courts and are being consolidated as a result.  The consolidation efforts headed by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster aim to free up courtrooms and hopefully reach resolutions sooner, especially as new cities and counties across the country file these suits daily...But the fillings continue both nationwide and locally...“Opioid manufacturers misrepresented the addictive nature of their products. They, along with national opioid distributors and national pharmacies, knew that they were shipping quantities of opioids around the country so enormous that they could not possibly all be for legitimate medical purposes...” said state Attorney General Matt Denn...Nearly all the companies named in Denn's lawsuit told The News Journal that they are committed to addressing the opioid epidemic and either hope to be a part of the conversation around how to fix it or have already taken steps to address addiction...

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Article
13 April 2018

Opioid judge orders trials, DEA records as 'step toward defeating the disease'

Author: Daniel Fisher, Legal Newsline (USA)

The federal judge overseeing hundreds of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors has ordered a series of bellwether trials starting in 2019...U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster in Cleveland ordered the Drug Enforcement Administration to turn over detailed information about the quantities of pills defendant companies produced and shipped, citing the DEA’s “failures” to control the epidemic.  The information...will help plaintiffs...identify additional companies to sue...Cities...are seeking compensation from the opioid industry for costs associated with addiction and illegal drug use, as well as changes in how drugs are distributed. Polster oversees...hundreds of federal lawsuits consolidated in a single court for the collection of evidence and other pretrial activities.  But he has no jurisdiction over hundreds more lawsuits filed in state courts around the country...The opioid litigation may be particularly challenging to settle...because of the broad range and size of defendants...Most of the lawsuits claim the drugs represent a public nuisance...Another complication is that most of overdose deaths are caused by illegal drugs..., meaning plaintiffs must prove victims were launched on the path to addiction by legally prescribed opioids or pills that were illegally diverted with the drug companies’ knowledge...

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