Aug 2 (Reuters) - Allergan Plc on Thursday sued Pfizer Inc to force its larger rival to cover any damages Allergan is forced to pay as a result of hundreds of lawsuits claiming it deceptively marketed an opioid acquired from Pfizer.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, Allergan said the "primary basis" for the claims against it was the alleged improper marketing and sale of Kadian, form of morphine, in the years before it gained rights to the painkiller in late 2008.
"But now that more than a thousand lawsuits seek to impose liability for that very marketing and sale, Pfizer has rejected any responsibility to indemnify Allergan," alleged Allergan Finance LLC, the subsidiary that filed the lawsuit.
Pfizer did not respond to a request for comment.
Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Drugmakers including Allergan, Purdue Pharma LP and Endo International Plc are facing a wave of lawsuits by state and local governments accusing them of pushing addictive painkillers through deceptive marketing.
At least 1,021 lawsuits are consolidated before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland, who has scheduled the first trial for March.
Plaintiffs' lawyers pursuing the cases have compared them with the litigation by states against the tobacco industry that led to 1998's $246 billion settlement.
In its complaint, Allergan said the bulk of the lawsuits it faces seeking to hold it responsible for playing a role in the opioid crisis primarily relate to improper marketing of Kadian and involve allegations dating back to the mid-1990s.
The drug at that time was owned by Alpharma Inc, which King Pharmaceuticals acquired in 2008, the same year King sold the rights to Kadian to Actavis. In 2016, Actavis acquired Allergan and took on the company's name.
Sale of rights to Kadian was a condition of winning U.S. antitrust approval for King's $1.6 billion acquisition of Alpharma. Pfizer acquired King Pharmaceuticals in 2010.
Allergan argued that Pfizer under the terms of an agreement Actavis signed with King in 2008 was required to indemnify it for any damages arising out of the pre-2009 marketing and sale of Kadian.
But Allergan said that Pfizer, which has not been named as a defendant in the vast majority of lawsuits, has rejected its claim for indemnification.
The case is In re National Prescription Opiate Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio, No. 17-md-2804. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Bill Berkrot)