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Drug companies in opioid epidemic settle with Ohio counties, avoiding 1st federal trial

Four big drug companies have reached a last-minute, $260-million legal settlement related to the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic, averting the first federal trial that was scheduled to start Monday morning in Cleveland.

Some 400,000 U.S. overdose deaths between 1997 and 2017 linked to opioids

AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., McKesson Corp. and Israel-based drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. have reached a legal settlement over their role in the opioid addiction epidemic. (George Frey/Reuters)

Four big drug companies have reached a last-minute, $260-million legal settlement related to the U.S. opioid addiction epidemic, averting the first federal trial that was scheduled to start Monday morning in Cleveland.

The settlement covers drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health Inc., McKesson Corp. and Israel-based drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., and ends lawsuits by two Ohio counties.

Hunter Shklonik, a lawyer for Cleveland's Cuyahoga County and Akron's Summit County, said Teva is paying $20 million in cash and will contribute $25 million worth of Suboxone, an opioid addiction treatment.

The settlement contains no admission of wrongdoing by the defendants.

Across the U.S., the pharmaceutical industry still faces more than 2,600 other lawsuits over the deadly epidemic. Participants in those cases said the Ohio deal buys them time to try to work out a nationwide settlement of all claims.

On Friday, talks collapsed aimed at reaching a broader $48-billion US settlement covering thousands of lawsuits filed by counties, towns and states from across the country over the crisis.

The trial was scheduled to pit two Ohio counties against the five companies that the local governments say helped fuel a nationwide crisis. Some 400,000 U.S. overdose deaths between 1997 and 2017 were linked to opioids, according to government data.

The judge overseeing Monday's trial said he would work out a new trial date for the remaining defendant, pharmacy chain operator Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

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