Rite Aid and Ohio counties reach opioid settlement deal.
The popular pharmaceutical chain Rite Aid Corp. and its affiliates have settled allegations brought by two Ohio counties that it contributed to the opioid addiction epidemic. The settlement, granted by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland, comes just a month before the case was set to go to trial. Operator and Lake and Trumbull counties disclosed the settlement in a motion filed in federal court in Cleveland, and Rite Aid has now been removed from the ongoing multidistrict litigation case. The settlement terms must still be approved by Lake County Commissioners and Trumbull County Commissioners, and these have not been publicly disclosed.
Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Walmart Inc. remain as defendants that are set to go to trial, which is scheduled to begin next month, on October 4. The counties have alleged the chains disregarded obvious red flags of massive orders, indicating that opioids were being diverted for illicit use. Both pharmacies previously settled with two counties in New York but have yet to propose a nationwide settlement. They will also face another trial in 2022 in San Francisco.
Drug maker Johnson & Johnson and distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and Cardinal Health Inc., have offered to pay a combined $26 billion to settle local government’s claims against them. However, as of yet, not all of the states have signed on, with at least six holding out. Additionally, drug makers AbbVie Inc., Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., and Endo International Inc. have not reached nationwide settlements. If settlements are not proposed, they will also go to trial.
Purdue Pharma and its creditors have reached a deal in bankruptcy court that the company values at more than $10 billion. The money will go towards addiction treatment and prevention efforts. The company itself will be converted into a public trust company, ensuring these goals are met. Many personally impacted by the crisis have voiced concerns that members of the Sackler family got off too easily.
In 2020, Polster denied efforts by Rite Aid, Walmart, CVS, and other pharmacies to dismiss allegations that their opioid monitoring systems were unreliable and that their failure to prevents opioids from being obtained illegally created a public nuisance. In his order last year, Polster found the plaintiff counties had shown sufficient evidence to support the allegations due largely to the fact that the pharmacies dispensed medication to the public, which he said, “violated the Federal Controlled Substances Act and also Ohio controlled substance laws.” The complaint asserted, “From 2006 through 2014, the Rite Aid in Painesville, Ohio, a town with a population of 19,524, sold over 4.2 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone. It offered bonuses to stores with the highest productivity.”
The judge is presiding over more than 3,000 cases involving opioids brought by local governments around the country against drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies. The two counties’ case against Rite Aid and the other chains was chosen as a bellwether public nuisance case against the pharmacies.