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US jury finds Israeli pharmaceutical company guilty of 'death and destruction'

A banner displays a Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. logo at the entrance to the company's new factory in Godollo, Hungary, on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012. Teva, the world's largest generic-drug maker, pulled a copy of the antidepressant Wellbutrin XL from the U.S. market after regulators said it isn't the same as the brand-name medicine. Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A banner displays a Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. logo at the entrance to the company's new factory in Godollo, Hungary, on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 [Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty Images]

An Israeli multinational pharmaceutical company has been found guilty by an American Jury of fuelling the deadly drug crisis in New York. A lawsuit filed by the state's attorney general in 2019 accused Teva and other firms of aggressively marketing painkillers across the state, while doing nothing to minimise addiction.

The lawsuit accused Teva and its subsidiaries of downplaying the drugs' addiction risk, marketing opioids for unapproved uses and failing to adhere to internal safeguards that are intended to prevent the drugs from flooding the market. The suit also accused drug companies of breaching their legal duties "to profiteer from the plague they knew would be unleashed," referring to coronavirus pandemic.

In yesterday's verdict a statement by the New York State Attorney General said that the jury found the firm and its affiliates liable for "death and destruction" across the US, reported the BBC. The Israeli drug company was charged with having played a role in what is legally termed a public nuisance, but the lethal consequences of the drug epidemic is said to be linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the US in the past two decades.

Teva Pharmaceuticals was accused of misleading the American people about the true dangers of opioids, the attorney general's statement said.

READ: Ukraine detains Israeli accused of running drug network

The six-member jury was asked to determine whether the companies had played a role in perpetuating the opioid crisis in New York. The trial was held on Long Island, where, according to the New York Times, between 2010 and 2018, the rate of overdose deaths involving any opioid more than doubled. In 2019, opioid overdose deaths climbed above 1,600 in Nassau County and rose above 3,000 in Suffolk County, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The amount that Teva and its companies will have to pay is not yet clear. "While no amount of money will ever compensate for the human suffering, the addiction, or the lives lost due to opioid abuse, we will immediately push to move forward with a trial to determine how much Teva and others will pay," Letitia James, the state attorney general, said in a statement.

The money from the settlements is expected to be spread to communities hit by the epidemic of opioids to use for addiction treatment and prevention programmes. If certain conditions are met, the combined amount could reach $1.5 billion.

Teva said yesterday it will appeal the verdict.

READ: Israel pharmaceutical firms test medicines on Palestinian prisoners

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