Teva CEO says company could pay up to $3.6B to put opioid litigation to bed: report

Teva could shell out as much as $3.6 billion in cash and meds to settle thousands of opioid lawsuits, Reuters reports.

CEO Kåre Schultz told the news outlet Teva would likely pay $2.7 billion to $3.6 billion over 15 years, with its cash contribution coming out to about $1.8 billion to $2.4 billion.

Schultz based his prediction on Teva’s recent $225 million settlement with Texas, as well as a proposed nationwide deal with Johnson & Johnson and three major drug distributors.

Earlier this week, Teva struck a deal with Texas’ Attorney General worth $150 million to settle claims that it helped fuel the state’s opioid epidemic. Teva will pay out the cash sum over 15 years and provide $75 million worth of generic Narcan—an overdose reversal drug—over 10 years.  

“The Texas model is a good one because it satisfies the need for cash … while still maintaining a significant portion of the settlement as products that really can help the people suffering from substance abuse,” the CEO said, as quoted by Reuters.

“It’s difficult to predict when there might be a breakthrough,” he said, adding that the Texas settlement is a “good framework to use nationwide.”

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Still, not everyone is convinced the Texas deal will translate nicely into a nationwide settlement.

“Global extrapolation from a one-off settlement, particularly with an entity that didn’t even file a lawsuit, is not always that clear-cut,” Paul Geller, a lead plaintiffs’ attorney for local governments at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, told Reuters.

The settlement rumblings come just after Teva reported fourth-quarter and full-year 2021 results.

Teva’s full-year sales hit $15.9 billion in 2021, down about 6% from 2020. Fourth-quarter revenues came in at $4.1 billion, 8% less than the $4.45 billion Teva made for the last three months of the previous year.

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On the company's earnings call Wednesday, CEO Schultz spent a good portion of time sorting through Teva’s litigation progress. Aside from individual settlements with Texas and Louisiana, Teva notched a recent legal win in California. The company also feels emboldened by a Johnson & Johnson victory in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Late last year, however, a New York jury found that Teva contributed to New York’s opioid epidemic. Teva has filed for a mistrial, taking issue with the plaintiffs’ closing remarks. The goal is to land a new trial, but if the plan doesn’t work out, Teva will appeal the verdict, Schultz has said.

Meanwhile, the CEO told investors Wednesday that he’s confident Teva can reach a nationwide settlement within the next 12 months.