Four large drug companies reached a last-minute $260 million legal settlement over their role in the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic, averting the first federal trial that was scheduled to start Monday morning in Cleveland.
The settlement covers drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp and Israel-based drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, and ends lawsuits by two Ohio counties.
Hunter Shkolnik, an attorney for the counties, said Teva is paying $20 million in cash and will contribute $25 million worth of Suboxone, an opioid addiction treatme
Drug distributor AmerisourceBergen, is among the four companies to settle before the start of a nine-week trial that was to start in Cleveland on Monday. The company’s office building in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, is pictured above
Cardinal Health’s corporate office in Dublin, Ohio, is pictured above. The company was among three drug makers to agree to a settlement in the opioid epidemic on Monday, avoiding a federal trial
Drug distributor McKesson’s San Francisco office is pictured above. The drug distributor was among four companies that agreed to a settlement in the opioid crisis that has led to 400,000 overdose deaths since 1999.
Israeli opioid-maker Teva’s office in Sens, south of Paris, is pictured. The company joined three others in a settlement over the opioid addiction epidemic in the US, avoiding a federal trial that was to start on Monday
On Friday, talks with the same defendants collapsed, which were aimed at reaching a broader $48 billion settlement covering thousands of lawsuits filed by counties, towns and states from across the country over the crisis.
The judge overseeing Monday’s trial said he would work out a new trial date for the remaining defendant, pharmacy chain operator Walgreens Boots Alliance.
A sixth defendant, the smaller distributor Henry Schein Inc , said on Monday it was dismissed as a defendant from the trial after agreeing to a deal for around $1.25 million.
Monday’s trial was scheduled to pit Cuyahoga and Summit counties of Ohio against the companies over allegations that they helped fuel a nationwide opioid crisis. Some 400,000 US overdose deaths between 1997 and 2017 were linked to opioids, according to government data.
The trial was a so-called bellwether or test trial that was meant to help shape a broader settlement of some 2,600 lawsuits over opioids that are pending nationwide.
Homeland security patrols the area outside the US Federal courthouse in Cleveland where the first federal trial over the opioid addiction crisis was due to begin Monday, until a settlment was reached with four out of five defendants
Monday’s settlements add to deals worth $66.4 million that the two counties earlier struck with drug companies Mallinckrodt, Endo International, Johnson & Johnson and Allergan.
The judge overseeing the case, Dan Polster, urged the parties to continue toward a broader deal covering all the lawsuits.
“I did not encourage a settlement of this case only,” Polster said in court on Monday.
Friday’s settlement talks broke down in part because of tension between state attorneys general, whose cases are not before Polster, and the local government cases consolidated in Cleveland.
Attorneys general were supportive of a deal in recent settlement talks that Shkolnik rejected on Monday as “a bargain basement settlement” for “pennies on the dollar.”
The lawsuits accuse drug makers of overstating the benefits of opioids while downplaying the risks. Distributors allegedly failed to flag and halt a rising tide of suspicious orders, shipping vast amounts of the pills across the country.
Drugmakers have denied wrongdoing, arguing their products carried US Food and Drug Administration-approved labels that warned of the addictive risks of opioids. They say they did not cause the terrible toll the epidemic has had on states and localities.
Distributors have said that they made up only “one component of the pharmaceutical supply chain” and their role was to make sure medicines prescribed by licensed doctors were available for patients.
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