Two Drug Companies Settle to Avoid Opioid Trial

(AP) — Two pharmaceutical companies have reached settlements totaling $15 million to avoid being defendants in the first federal trial on the drug industry’s accountability for a nationwide opioid crisis.

OxyContin pills arranged for a 2013 photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Dublin, Ireland-based Endo Pharmaceuticals said Tuesday it has agreed to pay the Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit, home to Cleveland and Akron, a total of $10 million to settle their lawsuits, which are scheduled to go to trial against other drugmakers and distributors in Oct. 21.

As part of the deal, Endo also agreed to supply $1 million worth of blood pressure medicines it produces for the counties. The counties will determine how the settlement is divided.

Allergan, also based in Dublin, agreed to pay $5 million to settle claims related to its branded opioid. The settlement does not resolve claims regarding its generic opioids, Frank Gallucci, a lawyer for Cuyahoga County, told and other media outlets.

The settlements came one day after the Summit County Council passed a resolution to approve settlements with any companies with less than 10% of the opioid market share in the county.

Matthew Maletta, an Endo executive vice president, said it would have cost the company $10 million in legal expenses just to go to trial.

The company admitted no wrongdoing, fault or liability related to the U.S. opioid epidemic that has led to more than 2,000 lawsuits by state, local and tribal governments, and hospitals seeking damages.

Opioids, a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, have killed more than 400,000 people in the United States since 2000. Governments say the drug companies downplayed the risk of the drugs and shipped suspicious orders to spur the crisis.

With the bellwether trial for Summit and Cuyahoga counties’ claims about two months away, there has been a flurry of court filings and rulings.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, of the Northern District of Ohio, who is overseeing most of the lawsuits, ruled that drug manufacturers and distributors had a legal obligation not to ship opioid orders that were considered suspicious.

The companies had argued there was a legal requirement to report suspicious orders but not to stop from shipping them.

Polster denied an additional request from the Ohio counties to rule before trial that defendants did not comply with the requirement, saying there were factual disputes about that.

Still, his ruling could be a major win for plaintiffs, particularly in their cases against distribution companies and the big generic drugmakers.

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