Attorneys for two Ohio counties revealed on Monday that a $260 million settlement had been reached in a lawsuit against four pharmaceutical firms over the drug companies’ role in the ongoing opioid crisis. The settlement came just hours before the case was to go to trial in federal court on Monday morning.
Under the terms of the agreement, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and confirmed by attorneys for the plaintiffs, Cuyahoga and Summit Counties will receive a total of $260 million from pharmaceutical distributors McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corp., and drug manufacturer Teva Pharmaceutical Industries. The two counties had asked for almost $8 billion.
The three distributors will pay a combined total of $215 million to the two counties immediately while Teva will pay $20 million in cash between the end of the year and 2021 and provide $25 million worth of the emergency overdose reversal drug Suboxone.
“The proposed settlement will make significant progress to abate the epidemic by providing resources for and applying funds directly to necessary opioid-recovery programs,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys said in a statement Monday.
More than 2,500 state, local, and tribal governments have filed suit against drug manufacturers and distributors for aggressively marketing and disseminating power opioids, leading to a plague of overdose deaths, taking more than 400,000 lives over two decades. An Ohio federal judge has combined the lawsuits filed by Cuyahoga and Summit counties to serve as a test case for the remaining litigation.
“Throughout this process, Summit and Cuyahoga Counties have tirelessly investigated, litigated, and prepared for the bellwether trial that would have begun today if not for this agreement. In doing so, the communities revealed facts about the roles of the opioid industry that created and fueled the opioid epidemic,” the attorneys added.
Walgreens Will Go to Trial
The remaining defendant in the case, retail pharmacy chain Walgreens, did not reach a settlement with the plaintiffs. That case was separated from the others and has been postponed. The plaintiffs’ attorneys said that they were ready to take that case to trial and suggested that more lawsuits could be in the works.
“We learned that this country’s pharmacy system has played a greater role in the opioid epidemic than previously realized,” the attorneys said. “Cuyahoga and Summit will continue to litigate against pharmacy defendants to further understand the industry’s failings and potential wrongdoing.”
Walgreens said in a statement that the company would defend itself vigorously.
“We never manufactured, marketed or wholesaled prescription opioid medications,” the company said in a statement to The Hill. “Our pharmacists have always been committed to serving patients in the communities where they live and work.”
“Walgreens is completely unlike the wholesalers involved in the national opioid litigation. Before 2014, Walgreens delivered opioid medications – among many other types of medications – only to our own pharmacies, staffed by our own pharmacy professionals. We never sold opioid medications to pain clinics, internet pharmacies or the ‘pill mills’ that fueled the national opioid crisis,” the company added.
Several defendants in the case, including Johnson & Johnson and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, the largest manufacturer of generic opioids, have already reached an agreement with the two counties. Efforts to reach a global settlement to cover all the pending lawsuits failed on Friday, prompting negotiators to concentrate the talks over the weekend on Cuyahoga and Summit counties.