Drug Companies Fail to Reach Settlement Before Opioid Crisis Trial

FILE – In this Friday, April 5, 2019, file photo, a protester gathers containers that look like OxyContin bottles at an anti-opioid demonstration in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington, D.C. The U.S. has backed away from recommending opioids for long-term treatment of chronic pain. Nevertheless, companies continue pushing the drugs in other countries, and consumption is growing. Researchers in Brazil report, for example, that prescription opioid sales have increased 465 percent in six years. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Six drug companies that are accused in thousands of lawsuits for their part in the nation’s opioid epidemic have failed to reach a settlement with governments across the country, setting the stage for a trial to begin on Monday.

The six defendants in the case include three pharmaceutical distribution companies — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson Corporation — as well as a distributor called Henry Schein Medical, generic drug company Teva Pharmaceuticals, and pharmacy chain Walgreens, court documents reveal.

Discussions lasting more than 10 hours took place between CEOs of the four distribution companies, attorneys general from Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas, and lawyers representing over 2,000 state, local and Native American tribal governments.

Plaintiff attorneys Paul Handly, Jr., Paul Farrell, Jr., and Joe Rice said in a joint statement, “Our goal when assessing settlement proposals is to provide local communities with adequate and urgently needed relief in the near term, and to ensure that these resources will be directed exclusively toward efforts to abate the opioid epidemic. The facts will show that opioid makers and distributors conspired to create and benefit from the worst public health crisis in decades.”

Talks also took place last week with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson, to potentially settle for $50 billion, according to a source close to the matter. However, the companies proposed to pay a combined $18 billion over a course of 18 years.

Purdue Pharma has already reached a proposed settlement agreement in the litigation. The company also filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on September 16.