Hikma will pay $150m in US opioid settlement

opioid crisis

Indian drugmaker Hikma has agreed in principle to a $150 million settlement to resolve lawsuits claiming that it contributed to the opioid crisis in the US, which could allow it to put the litigation in the rear-view mirror.

Under the terms of the agreement, Hikma would pay up to $115 million in cash and $35 million in donations of naloxone, an opioid antagonist used to reverse the effects of opioid overdose, to resolve “the vast majority” of opioid-related cases brought against it.

Meanwhile, media group Publicis Health – which was involved in advertising campaigns for Purdue Pharma, aimed at boosting sales of the pharma’s OxyContin (oxycodone) opioid brand – has agreed to pay $350 million. It is the first time that an advertising agency has agreed to a settlement involving opioid mis-marketing.

Both companies have said that the settlements are not an admission of wrongdoing or liability and would fight any lawsuits not covered by the settlement. The money will go towards the support of state and local efforts to combat opioid addiction and overdose, they added.

Drug overdoses killed nearly 110,000 people in the US in 2022, according to the latest US government figures.

Hikma was accused of failing to monitor and report suspicious opioid orders from potentially illegal distributors, even while its personnel knew their systems to monitor suspicious orders were inadequate and prone to failure, between 2006 and 2021, according to a coalition of attorneys general that pursued the company in the courts.

Publicis, meanwhile, developed “predatory and deceptive marketing strategies” on behalf of Purdue, which is trying to push through a $10 billion bankruptcy that has faced resistance because it would shield its Sackler family owners from litigation over their role in the opioid crisis.

As part of the settlement, Publicis has to stop accepting work related to opioid medicines and must release internal documents related to its work with Purdue and other opioid manufacturers.

“Hikma was part of an industry that flooded the country with dangerous opioids, profiting off the products that have caused our current national public health crisis,” commented New York Attorney General Letitia James.

She added that “for a decade, Publicis helped opioid manufacturers like Purdue Pharma convince doctors to overprescribe opioids, directly fuelling the opioid crisis and causing the devastation of communities nationwide.”