Picture: 123RF/Pavel Chagochkin
Picture: 123RF/Pavel Chagochkin

Cleveland — Four drug companies reached a last-minute legal settlement over their role in the opioid addiction epidemic, a source said on Monday, just as a nine-week trial was scheduled to start.

Drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson and Israel-based drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries were due to announce the settlement on Monday, according to the source.

“We are very pleased with the results,” said Armund Budish, the county executive for Cuyahoga County, which was one of the two plaintiffs in the trial that was scheduled to begin in Cleveland on Monday. Budish did not elaborate or provide further details.

The Washington Post said the settlement was worth $260m.

It was unclear if the fifth defendant, pharmacy chain operator Walgreens Boots Alliance, had reached a settlement with the two Ohio counties that were the plaintiffs in the trial.

The trial was scheduled to pit the two Ohio counties against the five companies that the local governments say helped fuel a nationwide opioid crisis. About 400,000 US overdose deaths from 1997-2017 were linked to opioids, according to government data.

On Friday, talks collapsed aimed at reaching a broader $48bn settlement covering thousands of lawsuits filed by counties, towns and states from across the US over the crisis. The value of the settlement could not be determined.

Attorneys were seen hugging and congratulating each other outside the courtroom.

The outcome of the trial was expected to help shape a broader settlement of the more than 2,300 cases against a larger number of defendants, including health conglomerate Johnson & Johnson.

Reuters