Status of
Opioid Litigation

Throughout the United States of America, opioids are responsible for the deaths of approximately 136 people each day. Along with the loss of lives, the epidemic has wreaked havoc on healthcare and prison systems throughout the country.

To cover these costs and lead residents on the path to recovery, local governments need financial assistance.

Opioid litigation is resolved through a legal process known as mass torts, where multiple jurisdictions take legal action against opioid manufacturers and distributors. These lawsuits claim that drug companies were aware of the highly addictive nature of the drug yet marketed it and sold them as a safe option for those with severe and chronic pain.

Those pursuing legal action aim to hold the companies responsible for their actions and omissions by making them fund extensive recovery efforts based on the damages caused in each area. Currently, in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) lawsuits are being heard by Judge Dan Polster in the Northern District of Ohio, where 3,061 active cases are pending.

Case Works supports law firms working on mass tort cases, including those that involve opioid personal injury litigation.

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    February 2022 Opioid Litigation Update

    The first opioid litigation case commenced in May of 2014. Since this historic case was filed, the path has been paved for thousands of other local governments to take legal action for their losses associated with dealing with the wrath of the epidemic. As of February 2022, recent cases have made strong headway in holding drug companies responsible for their actions.

    As of February 22, 2022, the owners and founders of Purdue Pharma (the Sackler family) have agreed to settle thousands of cases brought directly against the family and their pharmaceutical company. The Sackler family is offering a sum of $6 billion in an effort to absolve them of their liability. 

    While this sounds promising, the settlement comes with strings attached. If accepted, the settlement would prevent civil claims related to opioids be filed in the future against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family specifically. As of now, the District of Columbia and eight states have refused to accept the terms of the settlement.

    The negotiations are expected to continue as many local governments believe that the contingencies of the settlement afford too many protections directly to the Sackler family. The current offer is set to expire on March 3, 2022.

    This comes after a federal judge denied a settlement in the case for $4.5 billion back in December 2021. While the funds would appear to be able to make a promising impact on the epidemic for the local governments, a similar matter regarding future civil case limitations against the Sackler family blocked the approval.

    This is crucial because the opioid crisis has spread so far and wide within the U.S. With Purdue Pharma, and by extension, the Sackler family being major players in the pharmaceutical industry, this could prevent other jurisdictions from recouping damages in the future.

    In addition to the mass tort cases involving Purdue Pharma, other drug companies have also been taken to court for their roles in the opioid crisis in America. While other cases continue into negotiations, the state of California reached a settlement with three major companies in a historic $26 billion settlement.

    Johnson & Johnson, along with distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, all deny the claims made against them. Despite this, distributors will pay out over the course of 18 years to fund various recovery and treatment programs.

    Johnson & Johnson has a shorter period of nine years to pay their share of the $26 billion settlement, which is calculated at around $5 billion.

    Major Milestones in Opioid Litigation

    Here are a few of the major milestones that have occurred in opioid litigation:

    December 2016

    Cardinal Health settled in a case brought forth by the United States for violating several portions of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in three states: New York, Florida, and Maryland. The company agreed to pay $44 million to settle the case.

    January 2017

    The state of West Virginia and Cardinal Health ended negotiations, with the drug distributor agreeing to pay a sum of $20 million to the state. The case claimed that the distributor created a “public nuisance” in the community and that the funds would aid in recovery and opioid treatment programs.

    January 2017

    The United States and Costco reached a settlement for $11.75 million after officials alleged that Costco pharmacies tors who should not have needed them within their field of practice.

    The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a suit against top drug manufacturer McKesson. The lawsuit accused the company of failing to report suspicious orders of opioids, as is required by law. The allegations pertained to orders in Michigan. Ohio, Florida, and Colorado.

    To settle the case, McKesson agreed to pay $150 million.

    July 2017

    The United States of America brought legal action against Mallinckrodt, one of the largest manufacturers of a generic version of the drug oxycodone, for violating the CSA.

    The government alleged that the manufacturer failed to keep proper records and failed to report suspicious orders, as is mandated in the CSA. Mallinckrodt agreed to pay $35 million for these violations.

    August 2019

    In a landmark case, the state of Oklahoma brought legal action against opioid drugs manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. Oklahoma accused the company of starting the epidemic within their state, creating a “public nuisance.”

    A judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay the state $572 million dollars. This amount was revised in November of 2019, and the drug manufacturer was instead ordered to pay $465 million.

    September 2019

    Purdue Pharma and its founders, the Sackler family, agreed to a $12 billion settlement in an opioids case brought forth by a number of state and local government agencies. Of these settlements, around $3 billion was to be paid directly by the Sackler family.

    October 2019

    Two counties in Ohio — Cuyahoga and Summit — took legal action against a number of pharmaceutical companies, including Teva Pharmaceuticals, AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and Cardinal Health, for their roles in the opioid crisis in their communities. The companies settled with the two counties for a total sum of $260 million.

    February 2020

    As part of a multidistrict opioid litigation, Mallinckrodt settled in court, agreeing to pay $1.6 billion for their part in the epidemic that has expanded across the country.

    November 2021

    The former ruling in the case of the state of Oklahoma versus manufacturer Johnson & Johnson that ordered the company to pay $465 million in damages was overturned in court. The judge ruled that the public nuisance law the original case was formed around does not apply to those in the drug manufacturing sector.

    Who is involved in the opioid litigation?

    Over the years, there have been multiple opioid litigation cases that have involved opioid manufacturers, drug distributors, and even retailers.

    Each of these parties have been accused of contributing in some form to the opioid crisis by withholding information about the addictive nature of prescription opioids, falsifying marketing efforts, or not following strict legal regulations when filling prescriptions for customers.

    Drug manufacturers in these litigation cases include Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Endo.

    Distributors, including McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health, have also faced legal action. More surprisingly, top retailers like Costco, Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens are included in the opioid litigation cases as well.

    On the other side of opioid litigations is the federal government, along with many state and local jurisdictions. The claims made from these parties accuse manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of the same actions.

    Manufacturers have been accused of not releasing information about the addictive nature of opioids. Distributors and retailers more commonly face claims of not abiding by the CSA.

    McKinsey & Co. Opioid Lawsuits Are Separate

    In the current MDL opioid lawsuits, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has ruled that the McKinsey & Co. case must be tried separately from the current lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies.

    Although the lawsuits are similar in terms of claims and facts, the deciding factor was one of timing. Merging the case with the existing MDL three and a half years into litigation would place McKinsey and their legal team at a severe disadvantage compared to others who have been present throughout all of the legal proceedings.

    McKinsey & Co. is currently the subject of 17 different lawsuits and more than 20 other legal actions related to their distribution of opioids. These legal proceedings have been brought forth by 11 local governments, which has warranted a separate MDL.

    The allegations against McKinsey & Co. include claims of negligence, misrepresentation, fraud, and public nuisance, among others. It is likely that the case will end with a settlement comparable to those in the past, but negotiations will continue as the MDL case against the company continues to progress through the courts.

    Background on the Opioid Crisis in America

    In the early 1990s, Purdue Pharma introduced a new sustained-release version of an opioid medication. This medication, known as OxyContin, was marketed heavily by manufacturers and distributors to prescribing doctors.

    The information in the marketing materials stated that OxyContin was a safe and effective way to treat chronic pain. All of these organizations heavily stressed that the medication was highly effective and safe with a very low risk of developing a dependency on the drug.

    Doctors and their patients who were prescribed OxyContin accepted these claims and believed the drug was a good solution to provide relief from pain.

    Despite this, Purdue Pharma had information that indicated these claims were false. In fact, OxyContin was discovered to be a highly addictive medication. They failed to release this information and continued to market the drug as safe.

    Over the years, doctors continued to prescribe these medications. This is largely because of the structure of the American healthcare system: insurance companies will pay for pain medications, but they typically do not cover other forms of pain management.

    The medications initially helped relieve the pain of patients, but over time, these patients became immune to the pain-reducing effects. In turn, they required increasing doses of the medication to achieve the same level of pain management.

    Eventually, this led to widespread misuse and over-prescribing of OxyContin. The number of deaths involving overdoses began to rise along with the number of infants born with withdrawal symptoms after being exposed to the medication in utero.

    Those who relied on opioids for pain management began to realize that they experienced significant withdrawal symptoms after finishing their prescribed medications. The withdrawal symptoms of prescription opioids are severe and unpleasant, leading many to seek more pills or other forms of opioids, like heroin.

    Heroin is far less expensive than gaining access to OxyContin without a prescription and is easily accessible in most areas. One study of heroin addicts shows that as many as 80% of users were led to the drug after experiencing an addiction to prescription painkillers.

    By 2010, the opioid epidemic was fully established. Its reach has been far and wide; opioid abuse has affected all ages, genders, and races throughout the country. More than 500,000 lives have been lost due to overdoses involving opioids since 1999, and many more are still battling the effects of opioid addiction.

    Whether they are struggling with addiction themselves or have friends or family members fighting for their lives to break free from the grips of opioids, there is no denying the immeasurable pain and suffering caused at the hands of negligent manufacturers, distributors, and even retailers.

    While opioid litigation will not end the epidemic by itself, the lawsuits have made great strides in reducing the number of opioids that are prescribed.

    Likewise, the settlements that have been received and those that will come in the future aim to rebuild devastated communities, create effective treatment programs, and provide mental health support for all of those who have been affected.

    Get Help with Opioid Litigation

    If your firm needs help in preparing claims for settlement, reach out to Case Works for more information. The opioid litigation is complex and has a time consuming claims process, so contact Case Works today to discuss how we can simplify the process and provide all the necessary documentation for full compensation!