Drug companies reach settlement ahead of opioid trial

Four drug companies reportedly reached a last-minute legal settlement over their role in the opioid addiction epidemic.

Opioid crisis
The United States is struggling with an opioid epidemic [File: Brian Snyder/Reuters]

Four drug companies have reached a last-minute legal settlement over their role in the opioid addiction epidemic just as a nine-week trial was scheduled to start in the United States, a source said on Monday.

Drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp and Israel-based drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd will announce the settlement on Monday, according to the source.

“We are very pleased with the results,” said Armund Budish, the county executive for Cuyahoga County, which was one of the two plaintiffs in the trial that was scheduled to begin on Monday.

Budish did not elaborate or provide further details, however, the Washington Post said the settlement was worth $260m. 

It was unclear if the fifth defendant, pharmacy chain operator Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, had reached a settlement with the two Ohio counties that were the plaintiffs in the trial.

The trial was scheduled to pit two Ohio counties against the five companies that the local governments say helped drive a nationwide crisis. Some 400,000 overdose-related deaths in the US between 1997 and 2017 were linked to opioids, according to government data.

On Friday, talks collapsed aimed at reaching a broader $48bn settlement covering thousands of lawsuits filed by counties, towns and states from across the country over the opioid crisis.

The value of the settlement could not be determined. Opening arguments at trial were scheduled to begin at 9:30am in Cleveland (13:30 GMT). 

The story could not immediately be verified and the Wall Street Journal did not report the terms of the settlement, however, The Associated Press reported that a lawyer had confirmed that a deal had been reached.

Lawyers were seen hugging and congratulating each other outside the courtroom.

The outcome of the trial was expected to help shape a broader settlement of the more than 2,300 lawsuits against a larger number of defendants, including health conglomerate Johnson & Johnson.

Source: News Agencies