an agreement avoids the pharmaceutical giants a long and expensive process

Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Teva will pay the equivalent of $ 260 million to avoid a lawsuit in Ohio.

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Cuyahoga County (Ohio) and Summit (Utah) lawyer Mark Lanier speaks to the press in Cleveland Court on October 21st.
Cuyahoga County (Ohio) and Summit (Utah) lawyer Mark Lanier speaks to the press in Cleveland Court on October 21st. MEGAN JELINGER / AFP

The pleadings were ready and a queue had been formed before 7 am in front of the Cleveland Court, Ohio, on Monday, October 21st. But after one of these twists of which the American judicial system has the secret, the "trial of the century" opposing the manufacturers and the main distributors of opiates to about 2,500 plaintiffs (States, cities, counties, Indian tribes, hospitals …) n did not take place.

Dan Polster, the federal judge in charge of this extraordinary trial announced in the morning that an agreement was reached at 1 am between the lawyers of the American companies incriminated – Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, the Israeli laboratory Teva -, and those of the two counties of Ohio, whose complaints were to open the debates.

Ohio is, behind West Virginia, the US state most affected by the epidemic of overdoses related to the use of painkillers. The lawsuit against a fifth company – the Walgreens pharmacy chain – has been postponed indefinitely.

Under the agreement, opiate distributors will pay $ 215 million (193 million euros) to plaintiffs, while Teva will pay them 20 million in cash and provide them with the equivalent of $ 25 million in Suboxone, a drug used in the treatment of addiction.

The arrangement avoids to all the parties a long and expensive process; and, like all the agreements signed in recent years or currently under negotiation, it allows companies to escape public and repeated denunciations of their contested practices. But it is far from closing the subject and is only the smallest part of future regulations. The ongoing discussions for a solution that would satisfy all the plaintiffs would amount to some $ 48 billion, according to the US press.

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A public health issue

Prepared for two years, this trial was to be the first at the federal level to highlight the responsibility of pharmaceutical companies in the health crisis ravaging the United States. With 400,000 deaths in twenty years, the overconsumption of opiates has become in recent years a public health issue.

In the 1990s, due to poor treatment of pain in the American care system, overprescription of opiates was encouraged by the aggressive marketing of manufacturers and distributors.


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