Four drug companies reached a settlement to avoid going to trial that sought to blame them for stoking the nationwide opioid crisis, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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The Journal reported Monday, citing people familiar with the matter, that McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and Teva Pharmaceuticals Ltd agreed to a deal. It is unclear, at this time, if Walgreens will continue on as the lone remaining defendant at the trial.
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Settlement talks -- reportedly for nearly $50 billion dollars -- had fallen through over the weekend. In the last 20 years, an estimated 400,000 deaths are blamed on opioids, both legal and illegal.
The stakes of the case were expected to be significant and far-reaching, as a bellwether for how future cases are handled. There have been 2,600 lawsuits filed against various pharmaceutical-related companies -- that make, sell or distribute the drugs -- in an effort to recover some of the cost to opioid-ravaged communities.
In the case at hand, two Ohio counties -- Cuyahoga and Summit -- were suing companies that either make, sell, or distribute opioids. The counties were looking for money to help them fight and fix the epidemic, while families who lost loved ones to overdoses are seeking justice. The companies, meanwhile, say they followed the law and aren’t to blame for the crisis.
“This is not your typical tort product liability case. It’s really about an epidemic,” Carl Tobias, a professor in the law school at the University of Richmond, said. “There are so many different motivations among so many different players, it’s virtually impossible to know what would be good.”
“The distributors’ role is to help ensure that medicines prescribed by licensed doctors are delivered to licensed pharmacies, so they are available for patients who need them, when they need them, where they need them,” the three large distributors said in a joint statement issued after settlement negotiations hit an impasse on Friday. “We have to balance our mission to deliver medicines to pharmacies and hospitals when and where they need them against our important efforts to prevent and detect illegal diversion of those drugs.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.