ALBANY — Nassau and Suffolk counties will get a total of nearly $28 million to combat opioid addiction under a settlement with a global pharmaceutical company announced by state Attorney General Letitia James.
Endo Health Solutions will pay $50 million — $27.7 million to Nassau and Suffolk, and $22.3 million to New York State — and will be removed as a defendant from a lawsuit filed by the state and the two counties against pharmaceutical companies.
The funds must be used to combat opioid addiction and can’t be used to replace other government funds, James said.
The lawsuit alleges Endo used marketing and sales practices that contributed to overprescription of opioids and failed to identify suspicious orders.
A trial in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County began in June and continues against other pharmaceutical companies.
Endo, based in Ireland, said in a statement the settlement "includes no admission of wrongdoing, fault or liability of any kind by Endo or its subsidiaries. While litigation of the remaining opioid claims is ongoing, Endo is focused on its primary goal of achieving a global settlement."
Endo also said it was, "exploring other strategic alternatives" and may seek to implement one or more "in the event it is unable to achieve a global settlement."
The company declined to comment further on Friday.
James has filed suit against nearly a dozen other pharmaceutical companies and distributors as well as their subsidiaries.
If the legal action is successful, James said, the final settlement could reach $1.5 billion that would be earmarked to combat opioid abuse and help victims recover.
"For more than two decades, the opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on countless communities throughout New York and across the rest of the nation …," James said in a statement released Friday.
"But today, we’re holding them accountable," James said. "This money will be vital in preventing future devastation."
The opioid settlement fund stems from a 2021 law that said many opioid manufacturers and distributors played a role in overuse of the powerful drug while reaping great profits.
"While a number of factors helped cause the overdose epidemic, one significant element was the huge increase in prescribing of opioid medications that began in the 1990s," the law states.
"Yet, for years, the corporations that manufactured, distributed, and sold these drugs willfully ignored or misrepresented the impact of these medications and the extent of the problem," it says.
The settlement "will add more resources, and help save lives, as Nassau County continues to fight the scourge of opioids in our communities," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the agreement, "will provide significant relief to Suffolk taxpayers that have borne the cost of this epidemic while ensuring we have the resources available to help those recover from opioid addiction."
Opioids are prescribed for chronic or severe pain and for post-cancer treatment.
In 2019, an average of 38 people died each day from overdoses involving prescription opioids, for a total of more than 14,000 deaths that year alone, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With awareness and action by governments and health professionals, the death toll has dropped, the CDC has said.