With national opioid litigation heating up, Endo and Allergan saw an off-ramp and took it, agreeing to settle with two Ohio counties for a combined $16 million this week. But the state's attorney general has a message for the drugmakers: You’re not off the hook yet.
The state of Ohio plans to fully prosecute Endo and Allergan despite their county-level settlements, AG Dave Yost said in two letters to the companies.
“No settlement with any political subdivision(s) relieves Allergan PLC of any liability to the state for any claim that Ohio has brought,” Yost wrote in a Wednesday letter to the drugmaker. “I am doing you the courtesy of making this clear prior to you finalizing your settlement.”
Spokespersons for both Endo and Allergan could not be reached for comment by press time.
The AG’s broadside is the most recent escalation in a nationwide push by states, counties and cities to hold opioid makers responsible for their roles in exacerbating the nation’s addiction epidemic.
Endo’s $10 million settlement Monday with two Ohio counties came in a bellwether case for a massive multidistrict litigation involving around 1,600 counties and cities, currently moving through a Cleveland federal courtroom.
According to analysts, Endo’s settlement could represent a way “out of the woods” for drugmakers in a potential “global peace” deal and offers a breath of fresh air for companies facing the prospect of bankruptcy.
The $10 million deal Endo signed, extrapolated out to the full Cleveland litigation, would indicate a $1.8 billion liability, RBC Capital Markets analyst Ami Fadia said. That's a far cry from the firm's the original estimate of around $4 billion.
And that good news carries over to Allergan—which agreed in principle to a roughly $6 million deal with the same counties—as well as Amneal and Mylan. The prospects for Teva, which previously reached an $85 million deal with the state of Oklahoma to settle its claims there are less clear, Fadia said, due to uncertainty over how a global settlement would allocate damages.
The only hiccup in that plan? State attorneys general whose lawsuits fall outside the scope of a multidistrict deal.
States have shown themselves willing to go to bat against drugmakers, but only one—Oklahoma—has actually squared off against a company in court.
Oklahoma has pegged Johnson & Johnson as the “kingpin” of the state's opioid crisis in the first-ever bench trial assessing whether a drugmaker fueled an epidemic. The judge in that case is scheduled to announce his verdict Monday.
Analysts have said the result might have little effect on the Cleveland litigation’s results, though.
Once seen as a bellwether for the multidistrict litigation, a negative J&J decision might now represent a one-off given the “unique circumstances” of the trial, Fadia argued in a Monday note to investors.
“We've held the position that a public nuisance claim for opioids lies on shaky ground, and should this not pass in [Oklahoma], it would provide us with greater confidence that public nuisance would not be used as an argument in other state cases, and especially in the [multidistrict litigation],” Fadia wrote.