V.I. Reaches Agreement as Part of National $2.7 Billion Opioid Settlement

Oxycodone is the generic name for a range of opioid pain-killing medications. (Shutterstock photo)

The V.I. Attorney General’s Office has signed on to a $2.7 billion nationwide settlement agreement with companies Allergan and Teva Pharmaceuticals over the opioid epidemic.

The settlement between the companies and a working group of States’ Attorneys General and a multi-district executive committee for the plaintiffs was reached in November 2022, after which states and territories had the option to sign on. The USVI did so on Tuesday, filing a motion with the court to grant its entry of two Consent Judgments.

How much money the Virgin Islands will receive is unclear and will be based on the number of states that join and a complicated formula that assigns percentages to those states based on their exposure, according to the agreement. For example, under the category “Overall Allocation,” the Virgin Islands is allotted 0.0315673573 percent of the settlement, which would be about $746,550. By comparison, Pennsylvania has been allocated 5.4 percent, Washington 2.7 percent, and Virginia 2.7 percent.

There are also separate categories for things like “additional restitution,” for which the USVI is allocated 0.0459606175 percent, according to the agreement, which is more than 1,000 pages long.

The settlement, which will be paid out over six years, also includes the provision of drugs to help fight the opioid epidemic, such as naloxone and buprenorphine, which are prescribed for opioid use disorder, and stipulates that funds must be used to combat drug addiction, including in prison populations and among pregnant women, as well as for educational initiatives and professional training.

According to the complaint — filed Monday by Assistant Attorney General Julie A. Beberman in V.I. Superior Court, alleging violations of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and Public Nuisance — the companies aggressively pushed sales of their generic opioids while misrepresenting their risks and benefits and fueling the drug crisis in the territory.

For example, through its “Kadian Learning System,” Allergan trained its sales force to deceptively minimize the risk of addiction by attributing it to predisposing factors, such as family history or psychiatric disorders, emphasized the difference between substance dependence and substance abuse, and promoted the concept of “pseudoaddiction,” which is the idea that certain signs of addiction are actually the result of untreated pain and should be treated by prescribing more opioids, according to the complaint.

Teva, which manufactured a powerful fentanyl drug called Actiq meant for terminal cancer patients, promoted its “off-label” use for chronic pain and non-cancer pain, even sponsoring conferences for prescribers, and had sales representatives target general practitioners unlikely to treat cancer, according to the complaint.

“The rise in opioid prescriptions caused a devastating rise in opioid abuse, dependence, addiction, and overdose deaths in Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Illicit fentanyl and heroin use exacerbated opioid abuse, dependence, addiction, and overdose deaths in the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” the complaint stated.

“Prescription opioids continue to kill people across the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands every year. Many more suffer from negative health consequences short of death and countless others have had their lives ruined by a friend or family member’s addiction or death. Every community in the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands suffers from the opioid crisis of addiction and death,” it said.

The complaint does not include any statistics on the number of opioid deaths or the cost of drug addiction to the community, but during his State of the Territory Address on Jan. 22, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. referenced three deaths from fentanyl in 2023.

In reaching the settlement, neither Allergan nor Teva admitted any wrongdoing. Both companies and their subsidiaries were included in the suit because Teva bought Allergan’s generic drug business in 2016 for roughly $40 billion.

Tuesday’s agreement is the second such settlement for the USVI in two years. In March 2022, the territory received $7,965,449.15 as its portion of a $26 billion lawsuit by 52 states and U.S. territories against Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson for the ravages of pain medication addiction.