In the past three years, significant progress has been made in the National Prescription Opioid litigation, with settlements reached with major pharmacies, manufacturers, and distributors who directly contributed to the opioid epidemic.
Settlement agreements now total over $50 billion in funding dedicated toward directly abating the harm caused by the opioid epidemic over the last several decades. These settlements are a major step forward, helping communities across America and requiring corporate policy changes to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. These groundbreaking agreements were negotiated by a committee of attorneys, including Seeger Weiss founding partner Chris Seeger and partner Jennifer Scullion, who have both received individual awards and recognition for their innovative and impactful work on this case.
Agreements reached include those with:
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and AbbVie agreed to $6.6 billion to be paid out over 13 years
- Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals agreed to $4 billion in payments, along with $23 billion in provision of treatment medications like Suboxone
- The big three distributors – McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen – agreed to approximately $19.5 billion over 18 years
- McKesson to pay $7.4 billion
- Cardinal Health to pay $6.0 billion
- AmerisourceBergen to pay $6.1 billion
- The big three pharmacies – CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart – agreed to settlements totaling more than $13 billion
- CVS agreed to pay $4.9 billion to state and local governments, as well as $130 million to Native American tribes, over the course of 10 years
- Walgreens plans to pay $5.7 billion over the next 15 years, including $155 million to Native American tribes
- Walmart agreed to pay $3.1 billion in an expedited payment
- Purdue and the Sacklers reached a $6 billion dollar settlement with state attorneys general, an agreement that was paused by the Supreme Court, which is set to hear arguments in December 2023
Opioid Addiction Lawsuit Background
Beginning in the late 1990s, there was a nearly three-fold increase in pain prescriptions in the U.S. Overprescribing, improper marketing, and abuse of opioid medications have resulted in a health crisis as an epidemic of overdose deaths and opioid addiction has destroyed communities across the country and impacted millions of people and their families lives.
Up to 20 percent of the U.S. population claims to be living with chronic pain at some time. While this number remains steady, prescription pain reliever use increased by almost 300 percent over a 20-year period beginning in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, prescription opioid medications have caused dependence or addiction in millions of people due to this overprescribing.
Estimates show that about 3 million people in the U.S. may live with opioid dependence or addiction. Since 1999, overdose deaths have quadrupled to about 50,000 to 70,000 people annually. These numbers have been growing for several years and remain a major public health concern.
Because of the increasing threats to public health and the costs of treating problems associated with overdose and addiction, many health and law enforcement agencies at federal, state, and local levels filed opioid lawsuits against manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, and physicians who have improperly supplied pain medications.
Recent Opioid Addiction Lawsuit Settlements
Just before several bellwether trials against opioid manufacturers were set to go to trial, several manufacturers and drug wholesale companies reached agreements. The tentative settlement for $45 million from Teva for the Ohio cases came hours before opening statements were set to be delivered in a Cleveland case.
As a part of the National Prescription Opioid Litigation MDL, Walgreens, Walmart, and CVS agreed to pay more than $13 billion in a massive global settlement to resolve claims they contributed to the opioid epidemic. The Plaintiff’s Executive Committee negotiated an agreement in which Walgreens plans to pay $5.7 billion over the next 15 years, including $155 million to Native American tribes, CVS agreed to pay $4.9 billion to state and local governments, as well as $130 million to Native American tribes, over the course of 10 years, and Walmart agreed to pay $3.1 billion in an expedited payment.
“Cities and states nationwide have been burdened for years from the effects of the severe opioid addiction crisis, including high drug-related death rates, dramatically increased drug abuse rates, economic decline and rising crime linked to the over and improper prescription methods of these pharmacies,” said Seeger. “These landmark agreements in the opioid litigation successfully hold pharmacies accountable and are an important step towards helping communities devastated by the opioid epidemic. The funds will provide communities the opportunity to build out programs to support those affected by the ongoing crisis, including drug treatment programs, community support systems for families, and other essential resources. The abatement plan lays out specific ways in which funds can be used to ensure that the money goes directly towards fixing opioid-related issues and not general governmental spending.”
All of these funds will be used to directly abate the harm that the opioid epidemic has brought to communities across the country. The three pharmacy chains played a significant role in getting dangerously addictive opioids into communities without proper red flags and failed to create legally mandated monitoring systems to detect illegitimate opioid prescriptions. Once effectuated, these agreements will be the first resolutions reached with pharmacy chains and will equip communities across the country with the much-needed tools to fight back against this epidemic and bring about tangible, positive change. In addition to payments totaling billions of dollars, these companies have committed to making significant improvements to their dispensing practices to help reduce addiction moving forward.
Lawsuits against other defendants, as well as some filed in state and local courts have yet to be decided.
Purdue Opioid Lawsuit Settlement History
Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, was founded and privately owned by the Sackler Family. The company has been a major target of opiate addiction lawsuits with evidence showing the company knew the addiction risks of opioids and purposefully misled prescribers, government agencies, and patients.
Purdue faced legal trouble first in the mid-2000s and pleaded guilty in 2007 to federal charges. The company was accused of misleading federal regulators and others about the risks of addiction to OxyContin users. The lawsuit was settled with Purdue agreeing to pay more than $600 million in fines and penalties.
In September 2019, Purdue reached a tentative national settlement worth up to $12 billion. In November 2020, Purdue also pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government and violating laws against kickback payments. In March 2022, the Sacklers reached a $6 billion deal that is still under review by the federal courts. The deal also calls for members of the Sackler family to give up control of the company. In August 2023, the Supreme Court blocked the Purdue settlement from moving forward and agreed to take up the case and hear arguments in December 2023.
Opioid Addiction Lawyers
Though governmental agencies are making progress in dealing with the public health costs of opiate addiction, individuals have been harmed as well. People and loved ones of those who developed addiction or were injured by opioid medications are filing lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.