Four of the manufacturers of one of the most controversial drugs in recent United States medical history are expected to make a number of settlements whose total value will come close to $26 billion. The drug is known by its generic name “opioids.” One of the most popular opioid drugs is also known by its commercial name – Oxycontin. The drugs have been blamed for frequent cases of untreatable addiction, and government entities were seeking to recover the moneys paid to treat opioid victims.
The basic terms of the settlement
The two major defendants, Johnson & Johnson and Perdue Pharma, have agreed to pay up to $26 billion to various states and other plaintiffs to settle all claims against the companies. The pending agreement requires J&J and Perdue to contribute specified amounts to a settlement fund that would be paid to states, individuals, and other plaintiffs. Perdue agreed to pay up to $21 billion in 18 years, and J&J agreed to pay up to $5 billion in 9 years.
According to persons familiar with the tentative agreement, most of the money paid in settlement will go toward community expenses incurred in treating opioid addiction. About $2.5 billion will go toward attorneys’ fees and court costs.
A significant portion of the settlement will be paid to establish a new clearinghouse that will assist in the detection of suspicious drug orders. J&J will also be required to leave the opioid business for 10 years.
Drug companies have consistently denied that opioids are addictive. The companies have asserted that their product was approved by the Food & Drug Administration as a safe and effective pain killer. Perdue and J&J also challenged the assertion of public health experts that prescription opioids opened the door for illegal street sales of the drug and the widespread addiction that followed.
Several opioid trials are still pending in courts around the country. The trial in New York involves three large and one small pharmaceutical manufacturer. Other trials are nearing conclusion in federal court in West Virginia.
This case demonstrates the complexity of both the scientific and legal issues in drug litigation. Anyone who is interested in bringing a claim against a medical manufacturer should consult an experienced drug litigation attorney for a review of the facts and an estimate of the likelihood of recovering damages.