Two counties in Ohio could have pulled in $8 billion if they'd won their legal battle in court against Big Pharma. Instead, in an 11th-hour deal, they've settled for $260 million against three major distributors and a manufacturer for their role in the opioid epidemic, the Wall Street Journal reports. The sum of money granted to Summit and Cuyahoga counties means there'll be no trial kicking off Monday against McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, as well as Teva Pharmaceuticals, though another big defendant, Walgreens, wasn't part of the last-minute settlement; it's not clear if the trial will go on as planned against Walgreens. The Washington Post reports that a sixth smaller defendant, Henry Schein Medical, reached its own settlement for $1.25 million, though CNBC notes that Schein hadn't been sued by Cuyahoga County, and Summit's claims were "dismissed."
The distributors will reportedly pony up $215 million in cash to the two counties, with Teva contributing $20 million in cash and $25 million in drugs designed to fight addiction. The counties claimed that the drug companies, driven by a desire for profit, promoted a "public nuisance" by not adequately monitoring the deluge of opioids there, and that they acted in effect like a drug cartel, conspiring together to expand their market, per the Post. With this settlement, the firms can now focus on structuring a larger one involving what the Post calls "multidistrict litigation" being brought by more than 2,400 other counties, cities, Native American tribes, and other entities across the US. A more comprehensive deal to cover all of these lawsuits fell through on Friday. MarketWatch reports that after news of the last-minute deal got out, stocks fell slightly in premarket trading for the four companies. (Read more opioids stories.)