J&J and Teva beat $ 50 billion opioid deal in first industry win (2)

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Johnson & johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and other former opioid makers won the pharmaceutical industry’s first victory in the sprawling four-year drug litigation, defeating a lawsuit by California local governments that claimed it created a public health crisis by deceptive marketing.

Judge of the Superior Court Pierre Wilson in Santa Ana on Monday rejected allegations that J&J units, Teva, Endo International Plc and Abbvie Inc.‘s Allergan Plc tricked doctors and patients into addiction to opioid pain relievers and created a so-called drug-related “public nuisance”. Officials in Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Orange counties and the City of Oakland have asked for up to $ 50 billion to bolster law enforcement and treatment budgets depleted by the outbreak.

This is the first time that a judge or jury has dismissed claims by states or local governments that former opioid manufacturers should be held accountable for the fallout from the opioid epidemic in the United States, that claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 Americans over the past two decades.

“The court finds that the plaintiffs have failed to prove a prosecutable public nuisance for which the defendants are legally responsible,” Wilson concluded in an interim decision.

Lawyers for local governments said they would ask a California appeals court to review the decision.

“The people of California will have the opportunity to pursue justice on appeal and ensure that no opioid manufacturer can engage in reckless business practices that compromise public health in the state for their own benefit “, they said in a statement.

J&J said he was pleased Wilson found his Janssen unit’s opioid marketing and promotion “to be appropriate and responsible and has caused no public harm,” according to a statement. John hueston, an attorney for Endo, said the judge correctly concluded that the company “had not made any false or misleading statements, and that Endo’s legal conduct had not caused widespread public nuisance in cause in the complainants’ complaint “.

Teva also welcomed the move, while saying the company recognizes that communities across the United States are still suffering from the fallout from the opioid epidemic and in need of help.

“A clear victory for the many patients in the United States who suffer from opioid addiction will only come when comprehensive agreements are finalized and resources are made available to all who need them,” said the manufacturer of drugs based in Israel in a statement.

Read more: J&J and distributors unveil $ 26 billion opioid deal with states

The ruling marks a turnaround for J&J, which faced an Oklahoma judge’s ruling in 2019 that he created a public nuisance in the state through his marketing of opioids. Judge ordered New Jersey drugmaker to pay $ 465 million in reimbursement of taxes spent to fight against social ills linked to the epidemic. The decision is still under appeal.

While some players in the pharmaceutical industry, such as J&J, have moved to put in place global regulations of their opioid responsibilities, the case brought by the Californian governments has been brought to trial.

J&J and the three largest opioid distributors in the United States offered a $ 26 billion to eliminate over 4,000 state and municipal lawsuits. This agreement has not yet been finalized. Teva offered what it says is $ 23 billion worth of opioid treatment drugs, an assessment disputed by many states, cities and counties.

Lawyers for local governments have sought to persuade Wilson that opioid makers have inappropriately flooded the state with 20 billion doses of opioids over the past two decades and fooled doctors and consumers about the addictive nature of the pills. This led to increased dependence and overdoses and created a public nuisance.

The judge said, however, that evidence provided by governments of a dramatic increase in opioid prescriptions was not sufficient to meet California’s test that a problem characterized as a nuisance is “substantial and unreasonable.” Municipalities have produced no evidence of “medically inappropriate” opioid prescriptions linked to the company’s allegedly deceptive marketing, Wilson said. He said the increase could have been linked to appropriate prescriptions for pain patients.

“The court cannot conclude that an increase in medically appropriate prescriptions can constitute a basis of liability for public nuisance, even if undesirable consequences ensue,” the judge wrote in the 42-page decision.

The case is Santa Clara v. Purdue Pharma LP, 30-2014-00725287, Superior Court of Orange County, California (Santa Ana).

(Updates with J&J comment in seventh paragraph)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Jef feeley in Wilmington, Delaware at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Katia Porzecanski at [email protected]

Peter Blumberg

© 2021 Bloomberg LP All rights reserved. Used with permission.


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