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Teva, Endo and more back on the hook in San Francisco opioid trial

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A San Francisco opioid lawsuit against multiple drugmakers and pharmacies, including Teva Pharmaceutical and Walgreens, is set to proceed after a federal judge rejected the companies’ bid to delay the case.

In December, Teva, Endo International, Par Pharmaceutical and AbbVie’s Allergan moved to stay all claims against them in the suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, citing a recent victory in the California Superior Court for Orange County.

Walgreens and Anda—the two other defendants in the case—filed a separate motion to stay in January.

This week, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer denied the defendant’s motions to delay the case, stating in a court order that their “arguments fail to persuade.”

The defendants’ motions “center on the potential of the Orange County judgment to preclude at least some of the claims that Plaintiff asserts here,” the court filings state.

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The Orange County judgment—in which a state court judge ruled California counties failed to prove the drugmakers’ marketing fueled an increase in opioid prescriptions or addiction—isn’t final yet, Breyer pointed out. That ruling represented the pharma industry’s first opioid trial win.

Even if the OC judgment is affirmed in full, questions remain about the extent to which it “would have preclusive effect here,” the court order states.

“For example, neither Anda nor Walgreens are party to the Orange County action,” Breyer wrote in the order.

Now, the case is set to go to trial on April 25.

“Staying proceedings now would prejudice Plaintiff by, among other things, delaying resolution of its claims,” Breyer wrote. “This concern is especially acute given that this case is a bellwether case intended to educate parties in the opioids MDL about their prospects in future cases.”

The original complaint argues Teva and the other defendants helped fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic by “disseminating false and misleading statements about the risks and safety of opioids,” and by failing to design and operate systems to pinpoint “suspicious” orders of opioids, as well as to prevent “diversion” of the highly-addictive drugs, the court documents filed this week state.

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Teva, meanwhile, recently agreed to pay Texas $150 million to settle an opioid lawsuit in the state. Under the agreement, struck with Texas’ attorney general, Teva will pay the sum over 15 years and provide $75 million worth of generic naloxone over 10 years.

“While the settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing by Teva or its affiliates, it remains in the best interest of Teva to put these cases behind us and continue to focus on the patients we serve every day,” Kåre Schultz, president and CEO of Teva, said in a statement at the time.

The Texas settlement came shortly after a New York jury found the company liable for its role in the state’s opioid crisis. Most of the defendants in that case settled, with Johnson & Johnson striking a deal worth up to $263 million to resolve the charges.

Teva did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s request for comment about the latest San Francisco update. 

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