Drugmakers score first 1st trial win in opioid suits

Nov. 2, 2021

For the first time, a group of drugmakers have gone on trial for accusations that they fueled the opioid crisis with misleading statements and walked out the winners.

Plaintiffs in the months-long case argued that four companies — J&J, Endo International, Teva Pharmaceuticals and AbbVie’s Allergan unit — flooded California with unnecessary opioid prescriptions, leading to rising rates of addiction and overdose deaths. The counties suing the companies wanted $50 billion to address the crisis in California and for penalties.

But ultimately, the judge in the non-jury trial sided with the drugmakers and said that the plaintiffs had not done a good enough job proving that the prescriptions were unnecessary. 

“There is simply no evidence to show that the rise in prescriptions was not the results of the medically appropriate provision of pain medications to patients in need,” the judge wrote.

There are still more than 3,300 opioid-related lawsuits being levied against pharma companies by states, counties, cities and more. J&J is currently in the process of working on a $26 billion settlement negotiation alongside McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen. 

Federal data estimates that 500,000 Americans have died from prescription and illegal opioid overdoses since 1999.