Drugmaker Endo to Pay $10 Million to Settle Opioid Case Ahead of Trial

By Nate Raymond

August 21, 2019

(Reuters) - Endo International Plc on Tuesday said it had agreed to pay $10 million to avoid going to trial in October in a landmark case by two Ohio counties accusing various drug manufacturers and distributors of fueling the U.S. opioid epidemic.

Endo said as part of the agreement-in-principle it had reached with Cuyahoga and Summit counties, it had also agreed to provide up to $1 million of two of its drug products free of charge.

The tentative deal marked the first to be struck by a drug company ahead of the first trial to result from around 2,000 lawsuits consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio seeking to hold drug companies responsible for the deadly epidemic.

The cases by the two Ohio counties were selected for the first bellwether, or test, trial in the litigation to allow parties to gauge the value of the remaining claims and inform potential settlement talks.

Other companies still set to face trial include the drugmakers Purdue Pharma LP, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd and Johnson & Johnson as well as the drug distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp.

Endo's chief legal officer, Matthew Maletta, in a statement called the settlement a "favorable outcome" for the company and stressed that its value should not be extrapolated to any other opioid-related cases.

Endo, which in 2017 withdrew its painkiller Opana ER from the market, said the settlement includes no admission of wrongdoing.

Lawyers for the counties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Opioids were involved in 400,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 2,300 lawsuits by state and local governments are pending nationally, accusing drug manufacturers of deceptively marketing opioids in ways that downplayed their risks and drug distributors of failing to detect and halt suspicious orders.

The companies deny wrongdoing, saying they marketed their drugs appropriately and sought to comply with their legal obligations. They also argue they did not cause the epidemic, citing other factors.

Most of the lawsuits are before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland, who has pushed for a settlement and will preside over the Oct. 21 bellwether trial. Other cases are pending in state courts.

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