Drug Companies Reach $260 Million Settlement with Ohio Counties Over Opioid Crisis

Grant Boone
October 21, 2019

The agreement announced Monday calls for the distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson to pay a combined $215 million, said Hunter Shkolnik, a lawyer for Cuyahoga County. Drugmaker Teva would contribute $20 million in cash and $20 million worth of suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction.

A sixth defendant, the smaller distributor Henry Schein Inc, said on Monday it was dismissed as a defendant from the trial after agreeing to a deal for around $1.25 million.

Teva's shares have plummeted in recent months over the opioid lawsuits and the company's outstanding debt.

"Our goal when assessing settlement proposals is to provide local communities with adequate and urgently needed relief in the near term, and to ensure that these resources will be directed exclusively toward efforts to abate the opioid epidemic", plaintiffs' attorneys Paul J. Hanly Jr., Paul T. Farrell Jr., and Joe Rice said in a joint statement last week.

The judge overseeing Monday's trial said he would work out a new trial date for the remaining defendant, pharmacy chain operator Walgreens Boots Alliance.

The trial was scheduled to pit two OH counties against the five companies that the local governments say helped drive a nationwide crisis.

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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.

Lawyers for the counties were preparing to show the jury a 1900 first edition of "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", featuring the poisonous poppy fields that put Dorothy to sleep, and a 3,000-year-old Sumerian poppy jug to show that the world has long known the dangers of opioids. The industry has denied wrongdoing.

Friday's settlement talks broke down in part because of tension between state attorneys general, whose cases are not before Polster, and the local government cases consolidated in Cleveland.

In a statement, the attorneys general from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, which are leading those talks, said that effort will continue - and that the OH settlement helps. The drug distributor was among four companies that agreed to a settlement in the opioid crisis that has led to 400,000 overdose deaths since 1999.

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma reached a tentative settlement last month that could be worth up to $12 billion over time. Virtually every state, along with thousands of local governments, have sued the pharmaceutical industry seeking to recover money to help address the impact of the opioid crisis. "Before 2014, Walgreens delivered opioid medications - among many other types of medications - only to our own pharmacies, staffed by our own pharmacy professionals".

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