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West Virginia will receive $26 million in a settlement with the opioid maker Endo Health Solutions for the company’s role in perpetuating the state’s drug epidemic, the attorney general’s office said Wednesday.
The announcement comes less than a week before the state is set to go to trial on Monday against three opioid manufacturers: Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Allergan.
Endo would have been part of that trial if the state and the company hadn’t come to a settlement agreement over the last several months, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said during a press briefing at his Capitol office. The state sued all four companies and various subsidiaries around the same time in 2019.
The settlement money will go to developing programming to help fight addiction in West Virginia. As part of the settlement, Endo has agreed not to make any false or deceptive statements about opioids or to encourage or promote the use of opioids for pain treatment.
A 2019 lawsuit filed in Boone County Circuit Court alleged that Endo mischaracterized and failed to disclose the serious risk of addiction, overstated the benefits of chronic opioid therapy and promoted higher dosage amounts without disclosing risks.
The state alleged Endo rebranded a widely abused drug from the 1960s to keep up with competition decades later. The effort included a new name, Opana, and a new color.
Opening arguments in the case against Janssen, Teva and Allergan and their family of companies will take place Monday at Kanawha County Circuit Court. The trial could take up to two months, according to the attorney general’s office.
The state alleges the manufacturers helped fuel the opioid epidemic in West Virginia by strategically campaigning to deceive prescribers. Examples include persuading doctors to prescribe opioids for minor pain conditions.
The Teva lawsuit alleges sales representatives marketed the fentanyl-based opioid Actiq to non-oncologists and pain clinic doctors, even though the representatives knew the drug was designed for cancer patients.
“The widespread deception alleged in our lawsuits cannot be tolerated,” Morrisey said. “They must be held accountable for their actions.”