According to the resolution, distributor Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and its subsidiaries (Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., the Actavis Generic Entities, and Anda, Inc.), agreed to the settlement with the county in exchange for being released from a pending lawsuit filed by the county, as well as later claims brought by the New York State Attorney General’s office.
The agreement calls for Teva to pay the county over seventeen annual installments, with payments expected to begin later this year, Getman said.
According to Getman, the settlement funds can be used for a variety of purposes.
“Potential uses include supporting police and first responders, treating opioid addiction, funding social services and similar anti-drug efforts,” Getman explained.
The agreement also commits Teva to critical injunctive relief, Getman noted, including:
• A ban on high-dose opioids and prescription savings programs;
• Prohibitions on marketing opioids and funding third parties that promote opioids;
• Restrictions on political lobbying; and
• Disclosure of Teva opioid product clinical data.
The Teva agreement is the latest opioid settlement Schuyler County has been a part of in the past five years. In 2021, the county legislature authorized Getman to accept up to $121,000 from Johnson & Johnson and up to $546,000 from distributors McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation to treat, reduce and prevent opioid use through a court settlement with the opioid maker. A similar agreement, for $41,000, was obtained from defendant Actavis, Inc. in early 2022. Like the Teva agreement, payments to the county are scheduled to be made over time.
The settlements stem from a 2018 lawsuit the county filed against approximately thirty defendants, including some of the biggest names in the pharmaceutical industry. The lawsuit alleged the defendants had long known that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for chronic non-cancer pain, and should not be used except as a last-resort. However, the lawsuit stated, the defendants spent hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of opioids’ long-term use.
Schuyler County was one of many local governments that filed lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of opioid pain killers. At least 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for fraudulent marketing practices.
After the counties sued, in March 2019, the New York State Attorney General’s office brought its own lawsuit on behalf of the state. In November, 2022, Attorney General Letitia James announced a tentative deal with Teva that will deliver up to $523 million to New York state to combat the opioid epidemic.
In October 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency due to the consequences of the opioid crisis facing the nation. That year, more than 70,000 individuals nationally and nearly 4,000 New Yorkers lost their lives to a drug overdose.
Schuyler County’s lawsuit against a number of other defendants remains pending, Getman said, with the possibility of more settlements and additional funding to the county still to come.
Said Getman: “One cannot put a price on lives lost and families torn apart, but with the more than $824,000 expected to be delivered to Schuyler County from these lawsuits, we can provide the County with financial assistance to continue this battle and hold these companies responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic.”
County Administrator Fonda Chronis agreed: "County officials have expended significant resources to help its residents battle opioid addiction and prevent further deaths. By voting to go forward with this settlement, the County Legislature hopes to lessen the burden to taxpayers for expenses related to the opioid crisis."
Schuyler County’s latest salvo in the fight against opioid companies comes shortly after the New York State Department of Health released its Quarterly Opioid Report for January 2023, showing a 14% increase in 2021 overdose deaths involving opioids compared to 2020. That report, comparing state totals for 2021 to 2020 data, noted a 14% increase in overdose deaths involving opioids, with 4,766 deaths statewide in 2021. The report notes that fentanyl has contributed to an increase in opioid overdose deaths in recent years, is 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, and is now involved in the majority of overdose deaths in New York State.
In November, Teva issued a statement describing the settlement as "enabling us to put these cases behind us and continue to focus on the patients we serve every day.”