Drugs companies reach last-minute settlement in major federal opioid trial

Ben Kesslen and Associated Press

Four drugs companies accused of fueling the opioid crisis reached a last-minute tentative settlement Monday morning to avoid what would have been the first federal opioid trial, the Associated Press reported.

Five opioid companies had been in talks last week to settle the more than 2,000 lawsuits against them by cities, states, tribes and counties, as the trial was set to start in Cleveland Monday morning.

McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, drug distributors, and Teva Pharmaceutical, the maker of generic opioids, announced a settlement had been reached, while Walgreens Boots Alliance, the fifth plaintiff, has not yet announced an agreement, Paul Hanly, a lead lawyer for the local governments suing the drug industry, told the AP.

Immediate details about the amount of money in Monday’s initial settlement, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is unclear.

Related: Opioid and drug crisis in America

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Last week, the companies were in talks for a $50 billion deal, and earlier talks in August floated a possible $10 billion deal. The settlement is believed to include both cash and money for drugs and distribution who those addicted.

The opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, deeply implicated in the opioid crisis, was also a target of the lawsuits, but filed for bankruptcy in mid-September. The lawsuits, the majority of which have been combined into one big case, allege 10 companies were responsible for starting and sustaining the opioid crisis. Plaintiffs believe the companies inundated communities with opioids without properly warning about the threat of addiction.

The opioid epidemic has cost the U.S more than $504 billion and killed more than 400,000 people, according to a 2017 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers.