Allergan sues Pfizer, saying it needs to cover its opioid liabilities for Kadian

Gavel court room lawsuit judge
Allergan is suing Pfizer, saying it needs to assume responsibility for claims made against the opioid drug Kadian. (Pixaby)

Like a game of hot potato, painkiller Kadium has been passed around a group of pharma players in the last decade, from Alpharma to King Pharma, to Actavis and Allergan. When the music stopped, Allergan was stuck holding it, as well as all of litigation it attracted as an opioid. But Allergan is now suing Pfizer, which bought King but never owned Kadian.

Alllergan said King agreed to indemnify it for claims made against Allergan before it bought the drug in 2008. But Pfizer, for its part, is denying any liability for the drug, Allergan claimed in its filing.

“Allergan’s claims relate to a product that Pfizer never manufactured, marketed or sold. Instead they arise from a historical 2008 contract belonging to King Pharmaceuticals, a company we acquired in 2010. We will review Allergan’s suit and respond accordingly,” said in an emailed statement.

Kadium’s complicated ancestry is laid out in a third-party lawsuit filed in Ohio, in which Allergan is named as a defendant. The Dublin-based drugmaker points out that to date, more than a thousand plaintiffs have filed lawsuits claiming deceptive marketing of opioids, which they say led to an addiction crisis. Allergan was named in hundreds of those, even though they covered a timeframe before the company owned the opioid. It said its potential liability is tremendous and growing with new litigation every week.

“Yet Alpharma, King, and Pfizer are not named in the vast majority of the lawsuits both in this multidistrict litigation (MDL) and in dozens if not hundreds of state courts throughout the country,” Allergan said in the filing against Pfizer.

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Many opioids makers have gotten out of the business, but still hundreds of cities and counties around the U.S. are suing opioid companies and distributors for their role in the addiction crisis, alleging drugmakers "grossly misrepresented" opioid risks and that distributors failed to monitor suspicious orders, according to the court. Among those suing is New York City, which is seeking $500 million.

Drug companies named in the lawsuits include Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Allergan and Endo International. Three large distributors—McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health—are also named. Even the feds have jumped in. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced the Justice Department will supporting the cities and counties, allowing the federal government to recoup a portion of any payout.

There has been some movement toward a universal settlement, but the federal judge overseeing the MDL in March pointed out that barriers remain. He set the litigation on track for early court trials that could point the way to an agreement.

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Allergan, however, claimed it has very little responsibility in all of this because of its agreement with King. “Any loss that Allergan suffers in connection with pre-acquisition conduct, including but not limited to any judgment, settlement, attorneys’ fees, costs, or other liability, is directly attributable to the conduct of Pfizer, King, and/or Alpharma, and not any conduct of Allergan. Pfizer, King, and/or Alpharma, therefore, are the only parties actively at fault in bringing about any injury plaintiffs might have suffered based on pre-acquisition conduct,” Allergan's filing claimed.