Top 10 pharma settlements since 2018

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Multibillion-dollar settlements in pharma are a rare occurrence, but things are changing rapidly. Only weeks ago, two drugmaker deals were floated that would rank among the biggest ever if they are eventually approved.

The first—a whopping $23 billion deal from Teva to end thousands of state and local opioid lawsuits—would simply (and laughably) blow every other settlement out of the water. The largest deal ever approved was Merck’s $4.85 billion agreement in 2007 to settle thousands of suits against its arthritis drug Vioxx.

The second deal reportedly on the table—a $4 billion opioid offer from Johnson & Johnson—would rank as the second largest settlement ever reached. That’s not even mentioning the deal Purdue Pharma is reportedly working on for up to $12 billion to end its own opioid suits.

Needless to say, any list of the biggest settlements in pharma should be taken with a grain of salt. Things change quickly.

Those massive settlements currently in the works complicate what has been a trend in pharma in recent years away from some of the colossal deals of the past. According to a 2018 report from Public Citizen, settlements at both the state and federal levels stayed relatively flat between 2014-15 and 2016-17. In the more recent two-year span, there were 38 reported deals valued at $2.9 billion in penalties. That was one fewer settlement than in the two years prior and the exact same penalty value.

Compare those numbers to 2012-13—the peak of pharma’s settlement boom—when the industry inked 117 deals worth a reported $9.8 billion, according to Public Citizen.

With another biennial report from Public Citizen not due until 2020, we have compiled a list of the biggest settlements on record (so far) in the last two years. Our list runs the gamut of drugmakers both small and large and for claims as wide-ranging as Medicaid fraud and false advertising.

A few notes on the following list: Our rankings do not include settlements between drugmakers. For instance, Allergan’s deal to pay Teva $700 million to settle a generics deal dispute didn’t make the list. We also did not include unsigned settlements—including Purdue’s.

For our list of the top 10 settlements of all time (including Purdue’s tentative deal), click here.

If you have any questions on our list or spot something we missed, reach out to associate editor Kyle Blankenship (email). 

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