Major Opioid Maker Is Close to Settling Case to Avert First Federal Trial

One of the biggest makers of generic opioids in the United States has reached a tentative settlement of claims against it to avoid the first federal trial of drug makers, distributors and retail chains for their roles in the opioid epidemic.

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals announced Friday that it had agreed to pay $24 million to two Ohio counties. The company will also donate $6 million worth of drugs, including addiction treatment medications, to the plaintiffs: two large Ohio counties.

The agreement came just six weeks before the start of a trial that is intended to be a litmus test to help assess how much money the industry defendants in nearly 2,300 cases consolidated in federal court may eventually have to pay. The tentative agreement is one result of a flurry of intensive bargaining in recent weeks among groups of defendants and plaintiffs in this trial and in the cases nationwide.

Endo International and Allergan, which made smaller amounts of opioids that were sold in the Ohio counties, settled earlier for about $15 million in cash, plus drug donations.

The announcement also came at the end of a week of tough pretrial rulings against all the corporate defendants in the Ohio case by the federal judge overseeing the trial. There was other difficult news for Mallinckrodt as well, including reports that it was exploring a restructuring of the company, including filing for bankruptcy.

“Mallinckrodt is pleased we were able to reach a settlement in principle with the counties that made sense for all parties,” said Mark Casey, the company’s general counsel. Resolving the Ohio cases, he said, “gives us the necessary time to continue to work towards a global resolution of the opioid lawsuits,” referring to the remaining cases against the company in federal and state courts.

Jan Hoffman is a health behaviors reporter for Science, covering law, opioids, doctor-patient communication and other topics. She previously wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Style and was the legal affairs correspondent for Metro. @JanHoffmanNYT

Katie Thomas covers the business of health care, with a focus on the drug industry. She started at The Times in 2008 as a sports reporter. @katie_thomas

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