SAN FRANCISCO - The city of San Francisco has agreed to a $10 million settlement with Endo pharmaceuticals for the company’s role in the opioid epidemic, five days before a federal civil case involving multiple drug companies is scheduled to go to trial, officials said Wednesday.
The settlement will sever Endo from Monday’s scheduled trial, which includes defendants like pharmacy giant, Walgreens, along with drug companies Allergan, Anda and Teva.
San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu alleges that the defendants overprescribed painkillers – getting patients hooked and feeding the illicit opiate markets that are plaguing neighborhoods like the Tenderloin.
"The defendants in this case each contributed and created that public nuisance by flooding San Francisco with opioids," Chiu said in a Wednesday press conference. "The defendants did this by making false statements, misleading doctors and patients about the risks of opioids and changing the way the broader public felt about opioid use."
The case is just one of many where cities’ have sued drug companies for their role in the ballooning opioid crisis. San Francisco’s case, however, is different, according to Chiu, because it involves defendants on every level of the supply chain, including manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies.
He said the crisis has prompted users to seek out illegal opioids like heroin and fentanyl – which has pushed the city's overdose death toll to nearly 700 people a year over the past three years.
In fact, between 2015 and 2020, opioid overdose deaths went up 478%. And in 2020, opioid overdoses more than doubled Covid-19 deaths.
Between 2006-2014, drug companies doled out more than 163 million pharmaceutical pain pills in San Francisco, equaling 22 pills per person, per year, Chiu said.
"There is a line you can draw from the conduct of legal companies – manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies – to the illegal markets that you see today," said Keith Humphreys, a Stanford professor who’s been studying the opioid crisis. "They did dodge through not really loopholes but gaping holes in American regulation."
Walgreens and the other companies involved in the lawsuit would not comment
The city attorney's office filed the litigation in 2018 – and included companies like oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma.
Purdue went bankrupt in 2020 and paid out billions in settlements for its role in the opioid epidemic.
Chiu said the settlement with Endo has not been finalized, but will include a $5 million up-front payment.
Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky