4 healthcare firms just agreed to a deal to settle key opioids cases ahead of a trial

FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, file photo, narcotics detective Ben Hill, with the Barberton Police Department, shows two bags of medications that are are stored in their headquarters and slated for destruction in Barberton, Ohio. Jury selection is set to begin Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in the first federal trial over the nation's opioid epidemic. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)FILE - In this Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, file photo, narcotics detective Ben Hill, with the Barberton Police Department, shows two bags of medications that are are stored in their headquarters and slated for destruction in Barberton, Ohio. Jury selection is set to begin Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019, in the first federal trial over the nation's opioid epidemic. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)Associated Press

  • Four healthcare firms who have been blamed for the opioid crisis reached a settlement ahead of a federal court case that was scheduled to begin on Monday.
  • Drugmaker Teva and distributors AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and Cardinal Health have agreed to a settlement with two Ohio counties worth more than $200 million, according to the Washington Post and New York Times.
  • Between 1999 and 2017, more than 218,000 people in the US died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Corporations that have been blamed for the opioid epidemic in the US just agreed to pay out million to settle a key case before it went to trial.

On Monday, drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and Cardinal Health and drugmaker Teva agreed to settlements to avoid going to trial, the The Wall Street Journal reported. The Washington Post said the settlement was worth $260 million, while the New York Times said it was at least $245 million.

None of the companies reportedly involved in the settlement responded to requests for comment from Business Insider. Walgreens also didn't immediately return a request for comment.

The deal doesn't settle thousands of other lawsuits against drugmakers and distributors. Attorneys general had been pushing for the drugmakers and distributors to agree to settlements worth tens of billions nationally.

Shares of all four companies fell in early trading in New York.

Retail pharmacy Walgreens had not reached a settlement related to the lawsuit, the Wall Street Journal said. It's unclear whether the case will continue with Walgreens as sole defendant after the others settled.

Between 1999 and 2017, more than 218,000 people in the US died from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The opioid-addiction epidemic has led to changes in how the common painkillers are prescribed and used in hospitals and an increased emphasis on addiction treatments.

Over the years, thousands of lawsuits have been filed pinning blame for the opioid epidemic on different parts of the pharmaceutical industry, from those making the drugs to those distributing and dispensing them. The trial set to start on Monday would have been the first federal trial to deal with who is responsible for the epidemic.

Read more: The opioid-addiction epidemic costs $200 billion a year. These 5 digital health startups are trying to expand access to treatments and halt the crisis.

Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen, and McKesson are the biggest drug distributors in the US. They're in charge of shipping drugs around the US to pharmacies and hospitals. Distributors, which are paid based on the amount of drugs they distribute, are under fire for not monitoring the amount of opioids going out into the market.

Already, Johnson & Johnson in August was ordered by a judge in Oklahoma to pay out $572 million to the state for its part in fueling the opioid crisis, a decision the company plans to appeal. J&J makes prescription opioids including a fentanyl patch. Teva makes generic versions of drugs like oxycodone. The manufacturers are accused of misleading marketing that promoted the drugs' use as pain treatments.

This isn't the first time drug companies have paid out settlements in connection to opioid lawsuits. In September, OxyContin-makers Purdue Pharma tentatively settled thousands of cases against the company and its owners the Sackler family. The New York Times reported that under the deal the Sacklers would pay $3 billion in settlements over seven years.

Days later, the company filed for bankruptcy.

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