Law & the Courts

Four Major Drug Companies Reach Deal in Opioids Lawsuit

A pharmacist holds prescription OxyContin pills (Reuters photo: George Frey)

Four of the nation’s largest drug companies have reached a deal allowing them to avoid a federal jury trial in an Ohio lawsuit accusing them of catalyzing the state’s opioid crisis.

Drug distributors McKessen, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health and drug manufacturer Teva reached tentative settlements putting off the first federal trial relating to the nations’s opioid epidemic. It remains to be seen whether the trial, scheduled for Monday in Cleveland, will move forward against the only defendant who has not yet reached a deal, Walgreens Boots Alliance.

The suits brought by Ohio’s Cuyahoga and Summit counties accused the pharmaceutical industry of irresponsibly fueling the opioid crisis by marketing them without adequately warning about their highly addictive nature. More than 2,300 additional lawsuits against the companies brought by local governments and others remain unresolved.

Last year, the three drug distributors comprised 95 percent of the U.S. drug distribution market. The trial would have marked the first time evidence was presented and witnesses questioned in open court regarding how much drug companies are to blame for the opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma, maker of the painkiller OxyContin, reached a tentative comprehensive settlement last month with 22 state attorneys general and thousands of local governments and tribes. The $10 billion to $12 billion settlement reportedly requires the dissolution of the Stamford, Conn. company, which is accused of helping jump-start the opioid epidemic and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Details of the settlement between the Ohio counties and the four drug companies were not immediately available.

Close to 400,000 Americans are estimated to have died between 1999 and 2017 as a result of the opioid crisis. Almost every state along with thousands of local governments and other entities have sued the pharmaceutical industry over the opioid crisis.

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