Tennessee Baby Doe lawsuit against Endo reaches settlement.
Endo International Plc will pay $35 million to settle an opioid lawsuit by Tennessee local governments on behalf of a child allegedly born addicted to painkillers. The suit also sought to hold the drug maker accountable for its role in fueling the opioid crisis. Right before the settlement was reached, the case was set to go to trial and plaintiffs were expected to be awarded up to $2.4 billion. The lawsuit was initially filed in 2017 on behalf of nine counties, 18 cities and a “Baby Doe” born with neonatal abstinence syndrome caused by opioid withdrawal.
“We are pleased that after four-plus years of litigation that we have been able to reach an agreement in principle with Endo and are grateful to the communities of northeast Tennessee for their support in this landmark prosecution,” said Gerard Stranch, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
The plaintiffs alleged Endo downplayed the risks of its painkiller Opana ER, which was removed from the market in 2017 due to its high potential for addiction. Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt Plc were also originally named defendants, but both filed for bankruptcy.
Chancellor E.G. Moody of the Circuit Court for Sullivan County, overseeing the litigation, ruled in April 2021 that Endo and its attorneys engaged in a “coordinated strategy to withhold evidence.” He entered a judgment of liability as a sanction against the Endo.
Nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States from 1999 to 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has identified three waves of the opioid crisis, overall. According to the agency, these have occurred as follows: “The first wave began with increased prescribing of opioids in the 1990s, with overdose deaths involving prescription opioids (natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone) increasing since at least 1999. The second wave began in 2010, with rapid increases in overdose deaths involving heroin. The third wave began in 2013, with significant increases in overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids, particularly those involving illicitly manufactured fentanyl.” Provisional data shows that 2020 was a record year for overdose fatalities with 93,331, up 29% from the previous year, the agency states.
The Endo case is one opioid lawsuit of more than 3,000 brought by local governments, counties, cities, and municipalities, accusing drug makers of falsely promoting opioids as safe and distributors and pharmacies of overlooking red flags of suspicious orders being diverted to illegal channels.
Earlier this month, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $4.5 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma and its owners, members of the Sackler family, who will be required to pay the fee over the next nine years. Funding from the settlement will be used for prevention, treatment, and recovery programs nationwide, and thousands of individual victims are also expected to receive payouts as part of Purdue’s bankruptcy process.
U.S. state attorneys general also released a recent settlement proposal in which distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen Corp would pay a combined $21 billion, and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson would pay $5 billion, to resolve nearly all claims against them.