New York drug distributors reach $ 1.18 billion opioid settlement as national deal looms

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NEW YORK, July 20 (Reuters) – America’s three largest drug distributors have agreed mid-trial to pay up to $ 1.18 billion to settle claims by New York State and two of its larger counties regarding their role in the national opioid epidemic, the prosecutor said on Tuesday.

McKesson Corp (MCK.N), Cardinal Health Inc (CAH.N) and AmerisourceBergen Corp (ABC.N) have moved in as state attorneys general prepare to announce as early as this week a landmark $ 26 billion deal with drug distributors and maker Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) resolving cases nationwide. Read more

The deal with New York Attorney General Letitia James and the populated counties of Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk, came three weeks after the first jury trial, accusing the companies of profiting from a flood of addictive painkillers that have devastated communities. Read more

“While no amount of money will ever make up for the millions of addictions, the hundreds of thousands of deaths or the countless communities decimated by opioids, that money will be vital to preventing any future devastation,” said James.

Hunter Shkolnik, a Nassau County attorney at the Napoli Shkolnik law firm, said in a statement that unlike the proposed national settlement, the New York agreement “does not depend on accession by the rest of the country or others. States “.

In a joint statement, distributors called the settlement “an important step towards finalizing a broad settlement with states, counties and political subdivisions.”

“CLOSE” TO NATIONAL REGULATIONS

The national settlement is expected to be announced later this week, people familiar with the matter said. Joe Rice, chief negotiator for Motley Rice Towns and Counties Lawyers, told reporters the parties are “getting closer” to finalizing a deal.

Once the framework is announced, states and their subdivisions will have to decide whether they wish to join the global agreement, the sources said. The price of the final settlement could fluctuate depending on the number of people who accept or reject the agreement to pursue a dispute on their own.

The regulations also provide for the creation of a national clearinghouse for data on opioid shipments, operated under the supervision of an independent third-party monitor.

Paul Geller, chief plaintiffs negotiator at Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd Geller, said the provision would be “transformative” in the fight against drug oversupply.

Nearly 500,000 people died of opioid overdoses in the United States from 1999 to 2019, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said last week that preliminary data showed 2020 to be a record year for the total number of drug overdose deaths with 93,331, up 29% from the previous year. Read more

REMAINING DEFENDANTS

More than 3,300 cases have been filed largely by state and local governments, alleging that drugmakers falsely marketed opioid pain relievers as safe, and that distributors and pharmacies have ignored red flags indicating that they were being diverted to illegal channels.

New York lawsuit will continue against three drugmakers accused of deceptively marketing their pain relievers – Endo International Plc (ENDP.O), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA) and the Allergan unit of AbbVie Inc (ABBV.N).

Prior to trial, Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $ 263 million to resolve state and county claims. Pharmacy operators Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O), CVS Health Corp (CVS.N), Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N) and Walmart Inc (WMT.N) have agreed to settle with counties for a combined amount of $ 26 million. Read more

Two other opioid cases are also on trial in West Virginia and California. The companies have denied the wrongdoing.

James’ office said that of the nearly $ 1.18 billion that distributors have agreed to pay, more than $ 1 billion will go to fighting the epidemic. The counties said the money would be used for mental health and addiction programs.

Payments will start in two months and continue for the next 17 years, James said.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York and Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Tom Hals, Chizu Nomiyama, Bill Berkrot and Nick Zieminski

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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