Oct 22, 2019 - Health

The opioids legal battles rage on

Illustration of a gavel coming down on a pill

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The federal opioids litigation took a step closer to resolution yesterday when major drug companies settled with 2 Ohio counties just before a trial was scheduled to begin.

Yes, but: States, municipalities and the companies being sued are still hashing out a global resolution to the thousands of lawsuits pending across the country.

Between the lines: "Monday's settlement, lawyers involved say, can't be directly extrapolated into what a larger deal might look like, since the pressure of an imminent trial often leads to larger payouts," the Wall Street Journal's Sara Randazzo reports.

Driving the news: Drug distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen — along with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries — announced a $260 million settlement yesterday with the 2 counties.

Some state attorneys general announced yesterday afternoon that they had reached a $48 billion settlement "agreement in principle" with the distributors, Teva and Johnson & Johnson, and were hopeful that other states will join the agreement.

  • As Axios' Bob Herman points out, the $48 billion settlement is tentative and does not yet include a host of other states, counties and Native American tribes. It also does not include Purdue Pharma, which is working separately through its bankruptcy process, nor does it include other defendants.
  • And in a bad omen for its future, the lawyers representing city and county governments panned the proposal: "This appears to be the same proposal that 17 municipalities rejected on Friday and we don't see that changing," they said in a statement.

The bottom line: Opioid companies have avoided trials that would have pried open sensitive documents about their roles in the painkiller crisis. But the settlement talks are still far from over.

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