Oklahoma judge approves $85 million settlement with opioid drugmaker Teva

Posted at 3:08 PM, Jun 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-24 17:22:08-04

A judge approved a revised $85 million settlement between Teva Pharmaceuticals and the state of Oklahoma on Monday, money that will be used to try to end to the state’s opioid painkiller epidemic.

The settlement, initially reached in late May, had been held up over where the money should be sent. Teva, one of the world’s largest makers of generic drugs, denied any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

Under the approved plan, Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman said, the $85 million must be sent within three days to the law firm that has been helping the state build its case against opioid drugmakers.

The firm of Whitten Burrage in Oklahoma City is to withdraw its legal fees before wiring the remainder of the money, within 24 hours, to the Opioid Lawsuit Settlement Fund within the state treasury to abate the opioid crisis, Balkman said. The settlement stipulates that the attorneys are entitled to 15% of the settlement: just under $13 million in this case.

State lawmakers had objected to the initial payment structure, arguing that the money should go straight to the state treasury instead of an escrow account. A mediator helped bring all sides together — from the governor to lawmakers to the attorney general — to finalize the settlement structure.

“I want to thank the parties for working together and cooperating,” Balkman said.

The state of Oklahoma has proposed a 30-year opioid epidemic abatement plan with an estimated $17.5 billion price tag. Monday’s agreement calls for the money to be used as part of that plan.

Under the settlement, Teva agreed not to employ or contract with sales representatives to promote opioids in the state and said it will not use speakers, key opinion leaders or lectures to promote opioids. Teva also agreed to “promptly provide reasonable assistance to law enforcement investigations” involving opioids in Oklahoma.

“The resources and terms of the agreement will help abate the ongoing crisis the state is facing, help prevent doctors and Oklahomans from being misled by marketing materials and provides law enforcement with another investigative tool to help us shut down pill mills and illicit enterprises,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement.

Hunter has been dogged in his pursuit of drugmakers, accusing them of helping fuel the opioid epidemic in his state. The attorney general had accused Teva of taking “affirmative steps to overstate the efficacy of their opioid pain medications for a wide range of medications, while at the same time falsely downplaying the risk of addiction to those medications.”

Teva said it was entering into the agreement “solely for the purpose of settlement, and nothing contained herein may be take as or construed to be an admission or concession of any violation of law, rule or regulation, or of any other matter of fact or law.”

In March, the attorney general also reached a $270 million agreement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, over allegations that the company contributed to the state’s opioid epidemic.

The judge announced the finalized settlement with Teva on Monday during a pause in the landmark trial in his court in which Oklahoma has accused Johnson & Johnson of being an opioid “kingpin.” Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries have denied any wrongdoing.

The trial is the first in the nation in which a state is seeking to hold an opioid maker accountable for its alleged role in the opioid crisis, which has cost the state billions of dollars and destroyed thousands of lives.