Drug companies reach settlement ahead of opioid trial

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The nation's three dominant drug distributors and a big drugmaker have reached a tentative deal to settle a lawsuit related to the opioid crisis just as the first federal trial over the crisis was due to begin Monday, according to a lead lawyer for the local governments suing the drug industry.

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.

Four drug companies have reached a settlement on Monday to avoid a trial claiming their responsibility for the opioid epidemic, according to The Washington Post.

"While the companies strongly dispute the allegations made by the two counties, they believe settling the bellwether trial is an important stepping stone to achieving a global resolution and delivering meaningful relief", McKesson, Cardinal and AmerisourceBergen, which together control 90% of the USA drug-distribution market, said in a statement. Hanly said he had not done the same calculation, but thought it was likely worth more.

There have been more than 400,000 deaths linked to opioids in the United States since 2000.

Their public push for it came hours after four of the five companies involved announced a narrow settlement with the OH counties of Cuyahoga and Summit to avert a trial that would have begun Monday.

Teva gained 8.8 percent on the relatively small cash payout it will make to the two countries, $20 million.

AmerisourceBergen was down almost 3 percent on the New York Stock Exchange Monday at 3:37 p.m. EDT, while Cardinal Health and McKesson were down almost 2 percent at the same time.

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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. Under a global settlement, they would pay $18 billion and provide $2.5 billion in free distribution and about $500 million to create a clearing house to monitor for opioid abuse.

Walgreens released a statement Monday saying it is "completely unlike the wholesalers involved in the national opioid litigation".

Monday's settlement adds to deals worth $66.4 million that the two OH counties earlier struck with drug companies Mallinckrodt Plc, Endo International Plc, J&J and Allergan Plc. The Walgreens trial has been postponed.

Elizabeth Burch, a University of Georgia law school professor who teaches about mass torts, said municipalities will want some control over settlement funds as they seek the most money possible.

"When we filed this lawsuit almost 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.

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. Shipments continued to grow even after the US Drug Enforcement Administration warned the drug industry about the misuse of prescription opioids. They say they did not cause the bad toll the epidemic has had on states and localities.

The US$260 million deal with Ohio's Summit and Cuyahoga counties set the basis for a resolution of lawsuits by some 2,700 addiction-ravaged communities nationwide that had joined the Cleveland case, the first in a federal court to address the causes of a crisis that has wrecked the lives of millions. Another defendant, Henry Schein Medical, reached a settlement worth $1.25 million, the Post report said.

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

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