Four large drug companies reached a last-minute $260 million settlement over their role in America’s opioid epidemic, averting the first federal trial that was scheduled to start on Monday in Cleveland.
The settlement - which covers Teva Pharmaceutical, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson - ends lawsuits by two Ohio counties.
The judge said he would work out a new trial date for the remaining defendant - Walgreens Boots Alliance.
Ohio's Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said on Monday the settlement will help people directly affected by the crisis.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) CUYAHOGA COUNTY EXECUTIVE ARMOND BUDISH, SAYING: "We have the problems now.
People are suffering now.
People are dying now.
We have to deal with these issues now.
So the fact that we were able to get the money in a short time frame is very helpful, and that's one of the motivations for settling this." Monday’s now-canceled trial was seen as a test… meant to help shape a broader settlement of some 2,600 lawsuits over opioids that are pending nationwide.
The lawsuits accuse drug makers of overstating the benefits of opioids while downplaying the risks.
Distributors allegedly failed to flag and halt a rising tide of suspicious orders, shipping vast amounts of the pills across the country.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O'Malley says it’s now time for Washington to act.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) CUYHOGA COUNTY PROSECUTOR MICHAEL O'MALLEY, SAYING: "I hope the people in Washington acknowledge this situation that we have been bearing and pass laws to prevent these actions from ever happening again in this country." According to U.S. government data, some 400,000 overdose deaths since 1997 have been linked to opioids.