World

US drug firms offer to settle opioid suits with US$50b package

BOSTON Five drugmakers and distributors are offering US$22 billion (S$30 billion) in cash as well as drugs and services they value at US$28 billion to resolve lawsuits alleging the industry fuelled the US opioid crisis, two sources said.

The drug industry faces roughly 2,600 lawsuits seeking to hold drugmakers and distributors responsible for the toll of opioid abuse, which has claimed about 400,000 lives in the US, from 1999 to 2017. Local governments are seeking funds to cover costs of services in their communities.

Distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health have offered to pay US$18 billion in cash over 18 years, while Johnson & Johnson would pay US$4 billion in cash, two sources said.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has offered to give away medications it values at US$15 billion as part of the deal and provide distribution services it values in the billions, one said.

Teva's proposed agreement would run over 10 years and had a total estimated value of around US$28 billion.

LANDMARK TRIAL

A source said some states are asking whether Teva should pay cash too. Teva and the three distributors are defendants in a landmark trial set to begin on Monday.

The distributors, accused of failing to halt and report suspicious orders, are pushing for a settlement to be agreed to before trial begins, a source said.

In a statement on Wednesday, the lead attorneys for the cities and countiescalled reports they were tentatively supporting the settlement proposal "inaccurate". - REUTERS

MEDICAL & HEALTH