Teva Pharmaceuticals Found Guilty

New York court house

Now that it’s become painfully clear the role that pharmaceutical companies played in creating America’s 20-year long opioid epidemic, thousands of lawsuits have been levied against dozens of pharmaceutical giants, corporations that created the mind-altering drugs millions of Americans became addicted to.

The most recent development in such cases came in the form of a December 30th, 2021 announcement of a jury finding Teva Pharmaceuticals guilty of fueling opioid addiction in New York State. The jury deliberated for eight days, but it ultimately concluded that Teva had been dishonest and even criminal in their business practices, namely in the form of falsely marketing opioid drugs as being safe and non-addictive.

Compare this recent news to other announcements in 2021, like those of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Endo International Plc, Abby Inc., McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and others all either losing lawsuits or agreeing to billions of dollars in settlement damages to avoid facing plaintiffs in court.

Is this the beginning of the end for the pharmaceutical companies that helped fuel America’s most lethal drug crisis? At the very least, will they finally be held accountable for their role in this country’s lethal opioid epidemic?

Recent Developments in the Case Against Teva Pharmaceuticals

Court judge

On December 30th, 2021, a jury found Teva Pharmaceuticals guilty of having fueled the opioid epidemic in New York. While this is the culmination of a six-month-long trial, the verdict does not include a list of damages that Teva must pay, as that will be determined later.

And unsurprisingly, just as the verdict came out, Teva stock shares fell 7% in one day, despite Teva lawyers attempting to appeal the decision and even calling for a mistrial.

Some legal experts believe that the case was won against Teva because the prosecutors refrained from combining multiple charges against Teva. Instead, the prosectors carefully handpicked just a few charges they knew they could present rock-solid cases on. Quoting Reuter’s reporting on the case, “New York and the counties had accused the Israel-based drugmaker of engaging in misleading marketing practices that fueled opioid addiction in the state, including by pushing drugs for off-label use.” Also to the prosecutors’ benefit, they focused solely on two opioid pain relief drugs produced by Teva; Actiq and Fentora, rather than litigate against all pain-relief drugs produced by the corporation.

As is now well known, the case against Teva Pharmaceuticals is certainly not one-of-a-kind. Over the last several years, more than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed by state, local, county, city, individual, special interest groups, and Native American tribal governments across all 50 states, each lawsuit accusing drugmakers of minimizing the addictiveness of opioid pain medications. The lawsuits also accuse opioid distributors and pharmacies of ignoring red flags and oversupplying several geographic regions with enough highly addictive and dangerous opioids to hook the entire populations of those regions.

Some estimates put the death toll of the opioid epidemic at nearly 700,000, with conservative estimates still reaching 500,000. In just 2020 alone, the CDC estimated that over 100,000 Americans lost their lives from drug overdoses, making opioid drugs like fentanyl the leading cause of death for young and middle-aged Americans. Calling the opioid epidemic an epidemic is no exaggeration, hence the importance of holding accountable the pharma giants who helped create the epidemic.

New York State Opioid Addiction Statistics

New York ambulance

While understanding the breadth of the national opioid emergency is crucial, it’s important to see how the crisis impacted New York State on a more local level, as this was one of the first states that succeeded in reaching a guilty verdict against a major pharmaceutical giant. According to the Rockefeller Institute of Government:

  • Drug overdose fatalities increased 71% in New York between 2010 and 2015. That increase led to a surge in deaths per capita too, not just a surge in overall deaths. In 2010, about 9 New Yorkers died from drug overdoses for every 100,000 people living in New York. But by 2015, more than 15 New Yorkers were dying from drug overdoses for every 100,000 living in the state.
  • New York’s drug overdose crisis reflects that of many states, in that rural counties saw the greatest spike in deaths. While New York City saw a 45% increase in drug-related deaths, other counties in upstate New York saw an 84% increase, almost double NYC’s increase.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse also contributed to the data for New York. According to their research, the state lost 2,991 New Yorkers to opioid overdoses in 2018. While overdoses have been gradually increasing in the Empire State since 1999, the last several years have seen an exponential increase in deaths, with now several thousand instead of several hundred people dying from overdoses.

The families, friends, and loved ones who lost someone they cared about to opioid addiction must hold these pharma giants accountable. But it’s also immensely important that those still addicted to opioids get help at qualified drug treatment centers as soon as possible.

Overcoming Opioid Addiction

New York morning sunshine

It’s good news that pharma giants are being sued and that some of them are now losing their lawsuits. These developments may help protect the American people from a second pharma-fueled addiction epidemic later on down the line. If enough corporations are held liable for contributing to this epidemic, it may act as a message to future corporations not to manufacture and market addictive drugs.

However, while it’s certainly good news that some pharma companies are being taken to task for their role in creating the opioid epidemic, no amount of litigation will ultimately help those addicts who are struggling with drug abuse right now. Those currently addicted to opioids must seek treatment as soon as possible.

Opioid addiction is a life or death crisis. This universal truth has been laid out for all to see in the most painful way possible by the sheer death toll attributed to opioid overdoses. And that death toll has climbed, year after year, with the 30% increase in deaths between 2019 and 2020 being the highest spike yet. If those who are currently addicted to opioids don’t get help fast, there’s no reason to believe that this year’s death toll won’t be even higher.

Thankfully, there is a solution to drug addiction. With the help of qualified drug treatment, even addicts who feel they’ll be addicts for life, addicts who feel there is no way out of the crisis, can overcome addiction and experience life anew. With residential treatment, recovering addicts experience and receive the care, assistance, skills, strategies, and tools they need to face life without drugs.

If you know someone who needs treatment for opioid addiction, please be sure they get help immediately.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, ICCS, LADC, RAS, MAC, LCDC



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.