- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2019

Three major U.S. drug distributors and a drugmaker reached a $260 million settlement with two Ohio counties Monday, avoiding what would have been the first federal trial over the opioid crisis.

Drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corp. agreed to pay Cuyahoga and Summit counties a combined $215 million. Drugmaker Teva Pharmaceuticals would pay $20 million in cash and $25 million in opioid addiction treatment drugs.

Summit County will receive 38% of the settlements and Cuyahoga County 62%, according to a news release from Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro.

“When we filed this lawsuit nearly two years ago, we did so on behalf of every family who couldn’t do it for themselves and on behalf of all the communities who feel this epidemic every day,” Ms. Shapiro said. “Our goal was, and still is, to bring about behavior change on the part of the opioid makers and distributors and the pharmacies who fueled this crisis in our community.”

Walgreens is now the only defendant left in the trial that had been scheduled to start Monday. A new plan is for Walgreens and other pharmacies to go to trial within six months if settlements are not reached, according to The Associated Press.

“The impact of the opioid crisis on our communities has been devastating. Locally, we know the pain of losing fathers, mothers, children, neighbors and friends,” Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, County Council President Dan Brady and County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said in a statement.

“While we cannot return loved ones who succumbed to this scourge to their families and communities, we can and we must treat and save those thousands in our county who remain addicted and prevent the next person and family from experiencing the horrors of addiction,” they said.

The lawsuits allege that drugmakers unlawfully marketed prescription opioids to health care professionals while downplaying their risks. They also allege that drug distributors failed to report suspicious orders of opioids to authorities.

The three distributors said they “strongly dispute the allegations” made by the two Ohio counties, but they believe settling the trial can help achieve a “global resolution” and deliver meaningful relief.

“The distributors remain deeply concerned about the impact the opioid epidemic is having on families and communities across the nation — and are committed to being part of the solution,” they said in a statement.

The settlement averts a trial but does not address the more than 2,600 lawsuits nationwide that aim to pin blame on the drug industry for fueling the opioid epidemic.

Attorneys general from four states came to a tentative $48 billion agreement Monday with Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Johnson & Johnson and Teva for their roles in the opioid epidemic. The deal includes $22.25 billion in cash and $26 billion in medication-assisted treatment drugs and distribution over 10 years.

The four attorneys general involved in discussions over the nationwide cases — Ken Paxton of Texas, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania, Josh Stein of North Carolina and Herbert Slatery of Tennessee — called Monday’s settlement an “important step that allows us to move forward to finalize the global settlement framework.”

Last month, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma reached a more than $10 billion deal with 24 state attorneys general and officials from five U.S. territories to address the opioid crisis. The company also had filed for bankruptcy protection.

In August, an Oklahoma judge found Johnson & Johnson and its Belgian subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, guilty of helping to create an addiction crisis and ordered the drug maker to pay $572 million in the first state trial over the opioid epidemic.

• This article is based on part on wire service reports.

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