Published: Tue, October 22, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Federal opioid trial averted by last-ditch settlement

Federal opioid trial averted by last-ditch settlement

The nation's three biggest drug distributors and a major drugmaker agreed to an 11th-hour, $260 million settlement Monday over the bad toll taken by opioids in two OH counties, averting the first federal trial over the crisis. The deal includes $22.25 billion in cash and $26 billion in medication-assisted treatment drugs and distribution over 10 years.

After the new settlements and previous ones with other drugmakers, the only defendant left in the trial that had been scheduled for Monday is the pharmacy chain Walgreens.

The deal contains no admission of wrongdoing by the defendants, said Joe Rice, a lead plaintiffs' lawyer.

Although the tentative settlement reached Monday of a federal opioid crisis lawsuit stopped short of a global agreement, it triggered growing optimism that communities devastated by drug abuse and overdose deaths may soon see relief. Judge Polster said claims against the company have been cut off and moved to a different track, with a schedule to follow.

At least 400,000 people have died in the US from overdoses of legal and illegal opioids since 1999, according to federal data.

Opening arguments were scheduled to begin Monday in US District Court in Cleveland for the case involving claims bought by the OH counties of Cuyahoga and Summit.

Cardinal Health's corporate office in Dublin, Ohio, is pictured above.

But the parties could not come to an agreement on a proposed settlement valued at United States dollars 48 billion, including USD 18 billion in cash, after meetings on Friday. Teva agreed to pay $20 million over three years and to donate $25 million in anti-addiction medication.

The distributors, which handle around 90% of US prescription drugs, will pay a combined $215 million immediately. That anxious investors after a rocky few years for the drugmaker that saw more debt for Teva among its several acquisitions, declining revenue and deflated prices.

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In a statement, the three major distributors said the settlement funds should be used "in support of initiatives to combat the opioid epidemic, including treatment, rehabilitation, mental health and other important efforts".

The settlement ends only the suits brought by the OH counties of Cuyahoga and Summit. It said it was diligent to prevent the diversion of controlled substances.

MDL is similar to class-action lawsuits in the sense that both consolidate plaintiffs' pretrial proceedings for the sake of efficiency.

U.S. data released for the trial shows that 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills - two powerful and addictive painkillers - where shipped to USA pharmacies from 2006 to 2012.

The pharma manufacturers are accused of aggressive marketing tactics to drive up prescriptions of opioids and downplaying their addictive potential, while it is alleged that the wholesalers and pharmacies ignored legal requirements to restrict delivery and dispensing of the drugs.

Teva maintained it didn't market the drugs and was just meeting the demand of prescriptions filled out by doctors - and that it didn't produce more opioids than authorities allowed. Earlier Monday, a small distributor, Henry Schein Inc., said it will pay $250,000 of Summit County's expenses and will make a $1 million donation for a pain-management education foundation.

The five defendants in OH are continuing negotiations to settle more than 2,300 related lawsuits brought before the Cleveland federal court from hospitals, municipalities and others across the U.S. But half the states, including Pennsylvania, and hundreds of local governments oppose it.

J&J agreed to resolve the OH counties' case for $20.4 million.

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