Last week Alabama reached settlements with three pharmaceutical companies whom it had accused of fueling the opioid addiction crisis. Drug distributor McKeeson Corp. will pay the state $141 million. Johnson & Johnson will pay $70.3 million. Endo will hand over a relatively modest $25 million.
Those moneys will go toward the state’s efforts to combat opioid addiction. Separately, the companies will also pay a total of $40 million toward the state’s attorneys’ fees.
J&J, which was responsible for the pain medications Duragesic and Nucynta, says that it no longer sells prescription opioids in the United States. It denies wrongdoing as to its past marketing efforts.
Opioids have been responsible for more than half a million overdose deaths in the U.S. over the last twenty years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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There is much else happening as the legal liabilities for the opioid crisis continue to sort themselves out in the courts. West Virginia is now in the midst of a trial testing its contentions that Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and AbbVie’s Allergan unit bear responsibilities. The broad legal issue is larger than anything a given jury’s deliberations or any judge’s gavel can be expected to resolve, and will be with us for some time to come.