This was originally published in KCRW.
Three of the biggest U.S. drug distributors and a drug manufacturer have reached a last-minute deal with two Ohio counties to avoid what would have been the first trial in a landmark federal case on the opioid crisis.
Summit and Cuyahoga counties announced Monday morning that the tentative deal amounts to roughly $260 million.
Distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson pledged to pay $215 million, while manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals will pay $20 million in cash and an additional $25 million in addiction and overdose treatment drugs, according to Paul Farrell Jr., a co-lead attorney for the two counties. Under the deal, there is no admission of wrongdoing on the companies’ part.
Government officialsdescribe the agreement as a lifesaving deal that will funnel cash to social service programs and first responders on the front lines of the opioid crisis.
“If this was a war, today was supposed to be D-Day, where we engage the enemy and storm the beach,” Farrell told NPR on Monday. “So, last night at 11:50 p.m., the defendants retired from the field and decided to settle this particular skirmish rather than fight.”
However, the agreement unveiled Monday does not end the broader legal “war” between local governments and the companies they have sued in federal court — it pertains only to Summit and Cuyahoga counties. As the first to go to trial, their lawsuits had been expected to serve as a bellwether for the nearly 3,000 lawsuits that have been folded into one massive federal case known as the National Prescription Opiate Litigation.
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