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4 Drug Giants Reach $260 Million Settlement in Ohio Opioid Case. What Happens Next?

October 21, 2019, 5:27 PM UTC

A quartet of the nation’s largest drug distributors and one manufacturer have reportedly reached a $260 million opioid settlement with two Ohio counties mere hours before the first federal trial on the matter was slated to begin. The companies are expected to make an official announcement on the settlement later on Monday.

Plaintiffs alleged the firms had exacerbated America’s massive opioid addiction crisis through The companies—drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, which had more than $513 billion in combined 2018 revenues and all ranked in the top 20 of the most recent Fortune 500 list, and Teva Pharmaceuticals—reached the settlement with Ohio’s Cuyahoga and Summit counties, respectively located in Cleveland and Akron.

A smaller firm, the health and medical supplies distributor Henry Schein, said it had reached its own settlement with Summit County (it was not part of Cuyahoga’s suit) in opioid litigation. “We look forward to playing a constructive role in helping to advance solutions that put an end to opioid addiction,” CEO Stanley Bergman said in a statement.

There’s one major player whose status is more murky: The pharmacy giant Walgreens, which was not part of the reported settlements, may still move forward with a trial in the Ohio counties at a later date. Walgreens claims it doesn’t fit into the same bucket as the manufacturers and distributors in the suit.

“The allegations against Walgreens are very different,” said a company spokesperson in an emailed statement. “Walgreens is completely unlike the wholesalers involved in the national opioid litigation… We never sold opioid medications to pain clinics, internet pharmacies, or the ‘pill mills’ that fueled the national opioid crisis.”

The spokesperson also noted that Walgreens pharmacists did not prescribe, manufacture, or promote opioid medications.

As for the other defendants, the three major drug distributors will pay out $215 million while Teva will pay $20 million in cash and contribute $25 million worth of the opioid addiction treatment Suboxone to the counties.

But the legal battle against opioid makers and distributors is far from over. There are still some 2,600 opioid lawsuits facing health care companies accused of aggressive marketing and unethical sales and distribution practices that, plaintiffs alleged, led to the current opioid crisis. For now, however, the first major federal case is on ice.