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Last week, I blogged about five big pharma companies’ ongoing settlement discussions ahead of the nation’s first federal opioid trial, which was set to begin in the Northern District of Ohio on Oct. 21. At the time, three opioid distributors — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKensson — and two opioid manufacturers — Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Endo — were in talks of an over $50 billion settlement to resolve nearly 2,500 pending lawsuits accusing them of fueling the opioid crisis.

Just hours before the federal jury trial was set to begin, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson and Teva announced that a tentative $260 million settlement was reached, bringing the trial to a halt. The three distributors will pay $215 and Teva will pay $45 million, broken down into $20 million in cash and $25 million in addiction services and overdose treatment drugs. The companies did not admit to any wrongdoing under the deal, which is consistent with their repeated denial of being responsible for the epidemic that has killed over 400,000 Americans since 2000.

The settlement applies to two counties in Ohio, which are among a staggering 2,400 cities, countries, states and Indigenous tribes with pending suits against opioid manufacturers and distributors. The thousands of still-pending lawsuits will remain on track to eventually go to trial if further settlements are not reached. According to the Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee, which consists of the group of attorneys overseeing the case, “the federal opioid [multidistrict litigation] continues to move forward, as thousands of American communities still have claims against opioid industry defendants.”

National Settlement Talks are Ongoing

Hours after the $260 settlement was announced, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson, Teva and J&J proposed a separate $48 billion settlement to resolve all opioid litigation against the companies. They would pay $22.25 billion in cash over a period of 18 years with an additional $26 billion worth of addiction services and treatment drugs.

Some state officials have voiced concerns with the proposal, saying that states need money immediately, not over the course of 18 years, to begin treating the epidemic and that the $48 billion number is not enough. Others, such as Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, have backed the proposal, calling it “an important step in addressing the crisis.” It will likely take weeks for states to determine whether to back the proposed settlement.

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