US drug giants settle first federal opioids lawsuit for $260m

21 October 2019, 16:52 | Updated: 21 October 2019, 19:39

The first federal trial on the opioid crisis in the United States has been scrapped, after the court agreed to a $260m (£200m) settlement by the country's three largest drug distributors.

Judge Dan Polster, presiding over the case in Cleveland, Ohio, announced on Monday ahead of the defendants' opening statements, that AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, along with the Israel-based drug maker Teva, had reached a settlement in lawsuits filed by Ohio's Cuyahoga and Summit counties.

According to Cuyahoga County lawyer Hunter Shkolnik, the drug distributors will pay a combined $215m (£166m), while Teva will contribute $20m (£15m) in cash and $25m (£19m) worth of the drug Suboxone, used to treat opioid addiction.

It is understood that the companies have more than 2,000 other cases related to the debilitating effects of opioids outstanding.

Speaking about the settlement, in which there was no admission of wrongdoing by the defendants, Mr Shkolnik said: "People can't lose sight of the fact that the counties got a very good deal for themselves, but we also set an important national benchmark for the others."

Separately, the smaller drug distributor Henry Schein also announced that would settling with Summit County for $1.25m.

A federal judge in Ohio had been pushing the parties toward a settlement of all the lawsuits for nearly two years.

But Walgreens, American owner of the UK chemist chain Boots, remained in the trial and is set to return to court with other defendants within six months.

Purdue Pharma, maker of the controversial drug OxyContin, is trying to settle its more than 2,000 opioid lawsuits through bankruptcy court after filing for Chapter 11 protection last month.

The pharmaceutical industry is facing more than 2,600 lawsuits across the US, brought by state and local governments seeking to hold drug firms accountable for a crisis linked to more than 400,000 deaths over the past two decades.