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National opioid settlement begins to take shape


Source: Health Policy Institute of Ohio


As a critical trial deadline bears down, lawyers for states and the three largest drug distributors in the country, along with two manufacturers, have agreed on a framework for a deal to resolve thousands of opioid cases with a settlement worth nearly $50 billion in cash and addiction treatments (Source: “$50 billion opioid settlement taking shape,” Columbus Dispatch, Oct. 17, 2019).

Three people familiar with the negotiations said that cities and counties across the country are tentatively supporting the broad parameters of the deal but are negotiating over its total value as well as attorneys' fees. They warned that details could change, and the deal could fall apart before Monday, when opening statements are to begin in the first federal trial to determine responsibility for the opioid epidemic.

The agreement would release AmerisourceBergen, Dublin-based Cardinal Health and McKesson, which together distribute about 90% of the country's medicines, along with Johnson & Johnson and Teva, the Israeli-based manufacturer of generic medicines, from a rapidly growing list of more than 2,300 lawsuits that they face in federal and state courts.

The three drug distributors and Teva are defendants in the first trial, brought by two Ohio counties — Cuyahoga and Summit. With thousands of somewhat similar governmental lawsuits on the national runway, the Ohio suit is considered an important showcase that will test the strength of both sides' witnesses and legal arguments before a jury.

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