After the state struck a deal with Endo, McKesson hopes to settle with Alabama.
The state of Alabama has settled with drugmaker Endo International Plc over its alleged role in the opioid epidemic and is now in talks with distributor McKesson Corp. These discussions have put a hold on a full-blown trial against (what originally had been) both parties. The hold was announced right when jury selection was set to start.
“As the court knows, the state has completed a settlement with Endo, the other defendant,” McKesson said in a written statement. “The state is continuing to work through the mediator to resolve issues with McKesson, and the parties believe that additional time will allow them to complete a settlement and achieve a resolution without the need for a trial.” The distributor is confident that a compromise can be reached.
Due to the ongoing settlement talks and the deal negotiated with Endo, Democratic Judge J.R. Gaines set a new trial date for April 18, 2022. This will give both parties adequate time. Alabama was one of eight states, however, to refuse to join the proposed $26 billion settlement of opioid litigation against McKesson, two other distributors, and Johnson & Johnson by the September deadline. Endo is not part of that deal, but previously settled lawsuits with either states or counties in New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Ohio for a total of more than $111 million.
Alabama chose to reject the multi-litigation settlement in order to “to pursue its own legal strategy to best address the impact of the opioid crisis on Alabama,” said Mike Lewis, spokesperson for the state’s Republican attorney general, Steve Marshall. Alabama is accusing McKesson of “failing to prevent the diversion of opioids for illicit purposes,” and accused Endo of “engaging in deceptive marketing practices that misrepresented the painkillers’ benefits and downplayed their addictive risks,” according to its court filings.
McKesson and Endo have denied any wrongdoing on their end. They’ve argued that the state cannot prove they caused the opioid epidemic, and that Alabama’s “public nuisance” argument does not apply to damage caused by a product (i.e., opioid drugs), but rather, harm done to public property.
Endo, in an October filing, said that Alabama was seeking “at least $10 billion to abate the epidemic and public nuisance the state argued [it] created, as well as $1.65 billion in damages stemming for diminished income and sales tax revenues.”
Alabama has had among the highest rates of opioid prescriptions distributed and has fought to hold the companies involved accountable for the widespread damage caused by the addiction epidemic. In an August court filing, McKesson said the state is seeking close to $20 billion – nearly same the amount of the nationwide settlement.
More than 3,300 lawsuits are pending against drugmakers, distributors, and pharmacies by plaintiffs including states and local governments over an epidemic that led to nearly 500,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Alabama’s case is State of Alabama v. Endo Health Solutions Inc, Montgomery County Circuit Court, Alabama, No. CV-2019-901174.