OHIO: Three leading American drug distributors and an Israeli drugmaker blamed for a deadly US opioid epidemic settled a bellwether civil lawsuit with two Ohio counties Monday (Tuesday in Manila), opening the door for a broader national settlement worth $48 billion.
The $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.
Late Monday officials from four states driving talks for a global resolution for all those communities announced that they had a tentative deal.
They said that the four companies in the two-county deal, Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Teva Pharmaceuticals, along with a fifth firm, Johnson and Johnson, had agreed to pay $22 billion in cash over 10 years and $26 billion of addiction treatment drugs like suboxone to resolve the suits.
“The opioid epidemic has ripped through our communities and left a trail of death and destruction in its wake,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein.
“This agreement is an important step in our progress to help restore people’s lives.”
It was not immediately clear if the proposed global settlement would be accepted by the majority of the communities involved.
On Friday they rejected a previous version of the deal crafted by the four states, North Carolina, Texas, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, judging the original $18 billion in cash over 18 years as too small, lawyers’ fees too high, and distribution of the funds designed more to help state governments and less communities most impacted by the crisis.
Reeling from the massive human and financial burden of an addiction crisis that has left more than 400,000 dead of overdoses over the past two decades.
Communities say they need funds now to support hospitals and emergency services, and help families supporting addicts and children with addicted parents or parents who have died.
The $260-million cash-and-drugs payout to the two Ohio counties is designed to get funds into the communities quickly, local officials said.
“Cuyahoga County has seen thousands of people die over the last several years. It’s a tragedy. Summit County is no different,” said Cuyahoga Prosecutor Michael O’Malley.