Israeli Drug Giant Teva Pharmaceutical Held Liable for Spreading Opioid Epidemic in New York

New York State Attorney General Laetitia James said that the jury found Teva and its affiliates liable for "death and destruction" across the United States.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries helped fuel an opioid epidemic in New York by marketing and selling opioid painkillers across the state, a New York jury found on Thursday in what is being seen as a major setback for the Israel-based pharma giant. Teva is already facing thousands of other opioid-related lawsuits across United States.

The damages that Teva will have to pay will be announced later. However, Teva has said that it will appeal the verdict arguing at the trial that it complied with federal and state regulations and denied engaging in deceptive marketing.

Big Blow for Teva

Teva logo
Teva logo YouTube grab

A lawsuit was filed against Teva by the New York state's attorney general in 2019 accusing Teva and some of its units of aggressively marketing opioid painkillers across the state, while doing nothing to minimize addiction. Thursday's verdict comes almost six months after the trial began and the jury deliberated more than eight days before reaching a verdict.

In a statement, New York State Attorney General Laetitia James said that the jury found Teva and its affiliates liable for "death and destruction" across the United States. "Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and others misled the American people about the true dangers of opioids," she said.

Teva's aggressive marketing strategy and thereafter pushing drugs for off-label sales fueled opioid addiction in the state. The firm focused on Actiq and Fentora, cancer pain drugs made by Cephalon Inc, a company Teva bought in 2011, as well as generic opioids sold by Teva.

Following the verdict, Teva's shares tumbled over 7 percent in the New York Stock Exchange, the most since November 3.

Beginning of the End?

Opioid drugs
Opioid drugs (For representational purpose only) Pixabay

The Israel-based firm now faces potentially billions of dollars in compensation claims from the New York state and two Long Island counties accusing Teva executives of flooding their areas with more than a billion opioids pills over nearly a decade and using misleading tactics to sell them.

Supporters of the lawsuit hope that the damages that Teva will have to pay will be used to improve treatment and support services for those affected by opioid addiction. However, the damages haven't been announced yet.

Judge Jerry Garguilo will decide later how much compensation Teva will pay to beef up treatment and social-service budgets depleted by the US opioid crisis. The opioid epidemic has killed more than 500,000 Americans over the last two decades.

Jurors found Teva itself was 30 percent liable for harm created by its opioid marketing in Suffolk and Nassau counties while it was 40 percent liable for the problems across the whole state. Its units' percentages of fault made up the remainder of 100 percent, according to the verdict form.

That said, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The New York lawsuit is one of more than 3,300 filed by state, local and Native American tribal governments across the country over the years accusing drugmakers of minimizing the addictiveness of opioid pain medications, and distributors and pharmacies of ignoring red flags that they were being diverted into illegal channels.

In November, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 100,000 people died of overdose between April 2020 and April 2021, figures partially driven by a significant spike in fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.