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Drug companies reach settlement as opioid trial set to begin

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Drug companies reach settlement as opioid trial set to begin
FILE PHOTO: A view of the statue standing in front of the U.S. District Courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., October 18, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk   -   Copyright  AARON JOSEFCZYK(Reuters)
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By Kathy Gray

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Four drug companies reached a last-minute legal settlement over their role in the opioid addiction epidemic, a source said on Monday, just as a nine-week trial was scheduled to start in Cleveland.

Drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp <ABC.N>, Cardinal Health Inc <CAH.N> and McKesson Corp <MCK.N> and Israel-based drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd <TEVA> will announce the settlement on Monday, according to the source.

“We are very pleased with the results,” said Armund Budish, the county executive for Cuyahoga County, which was one of the two plaintiffs in the trial that was scheduled to begin Monday.

Budish did not elaborate or provide further details.

The Washington Post said the settlement was worth $260 million.

It was unclear if the fifth defendant, pharmacy chain operator Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc <WBA.O>, had reached a settlement with the two Ohio counties that were the plaintiffs in the trial set to begin Monday morning.

The trial was scheduled to pit the two Ohio counties against the five companies that the local governments say helped fuel a nationwide opioid crisis. Some 400,000 U.S. overdose deaths between 1997 and 2017 were linked to opioids, according to government data.

On Friday, talks collapsed aimed at reaching a broader $48 billion settlement covering thousands of lawsuits filed by counties, towns and states from across the country over the crisis.

The value of the settlement could not be determined. Opening arguments at trial were scheduled to begin at 9:30 am ET in Cleveland.

Attorneys were seen hugging and congratulating each other outside the courtroom.

The outcome of the trial was expected to help shape a broader settlement of the more than 2,300 lawsuits against a larger number of defendants, including health conglomerate Johnson & Johnson <JNJ.N>.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, Nate Raymond in Boston and Kathy Gray in Cleveland.; Editing by Noeleen Walder, Bill Berkrot and Chizu Nomiyama)

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