Cleveland (USA) (AFP)
Four pharmaceutical companies Monday reached an amicable agreement to avoid an unprecedented federal lawsuit over the opiate crisis that ravages the United States, pending a broader agreement that could amount to tens of billions of dollars for industry.
Lawyers from hundreds of local governments suing opioid pain clinics and laboratories confirmed Monday morning that an agreement was reached between Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Israel's Teva and two counties in Ohio, whose complaints were to be examined first in a test trial, on the other hand.
The agreement provides for the payment of some $ 215 million by these major distributors and some $ 45 million from Teva, which manufactures generic opiate drugs in the form of cash and drugs used in the treatment of addictions, according to the Wall Street Journal.
"I want to thank the lawyers, it would have been a very, very interesting case to preside over," Judge Dan Polster told the Cleveland Federal Court, which had prompted plaintiffs and defendants to find a negotiated deal to avoid months of trial.
"The proposed agreement will make significant progress in stemming the crisis by providing resources for opiate addiction treatment programs," county lawyers said in a statement.
- "No global solution" -
The trial, scheduled to begin Monday morning, would have been the first federal trial to examine the responsibilities of the pharmaceutical industry in this crisis that has claimed more than 400,000 overdose deaths in 20 years, according to figures from the US Centers for Prevention diseases (CDC).
Laboratories and distributors are accused of having, from the end of the 90s, aggressively promoted opioid painkillers such as oxycodone even though they knew their addictive power.
They are also accused of ignoring the warning signs that showed their abuse and resale on the illegal drug market to take advantage of this lucrative market.
If the trial will not take place - there is only one defendant left in front of the two counties, the chain of pharmacies Walgreens, whose trial has been postponed - the plaintiffs' lawyers pointed out that "this is not the case. [ssai] t not a global solution ".
It remains to find a wider agreement to settle all complaints - some 2,700 with local authorities of all kinds including almost all US states.
It could be in the tens of billions of dollars, potentially the largest deal negotiated since the agreement reached with major US tobacco companies in 1998: the latter then agreed to pay more than $ 200 billion after being accused of having minimized for decades the dangers of tobacco.
In the opioid crisis, the amounts paid by the industry should help cities, counties and US states to cope with the costs of this public health crisis, estimated by the CDC at about $ 78.5 billion a year to cover health costs, lost productivity and costs for the penal system.
According to sources quoted by US media, a broader agreement could be announced during the day.
The latest information showed a possible global deal worth some $ 50 billion, which would finally settle complaints against Johnson & Johnson and Teva laboratories, as well as against distributors AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health, responsible of the distribution of 90% of American drugs.
The Purdue laboratory, which manufactures the famous OxyContin opiate, has seen complaints against him suspended since it was placed in September under the protection of the bankruptcy law, proposing to pay between 10 and 12 billion dollars to pay the bills. complaints against him.
However, several laboratories, including Purdue and Teva, have offered payments spread over years, paid in part not in cash but in medicine, prompting prosecutors in some 20 states to reject their offers so far.
The prosecutor of the State of New York, particularly combative on this issue, has judged this proposal insufficient in view of the "devastation inflicted on the American people".
© 2019 AFP