The pleadings were ready and a queue had been formed before 7 am in front of the Cleveland Court, Ohio, on Monday, October 21st. But, after one of the twists and turns that the US judicial system has the secret, the "lawsuit of the century" between manufacturers and major opiate distributors to nearly 2,500 plaintiffs (states, cities, counties, Indian tribes, hospitals ...) did not happen.
Dan Polster, the federal judge responsible for this extraordinary trial, announced in the morning that an agreement was reached at 1 am between the lawyers of the American companies involved - Cardinal Health, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, the Israeli laboratory Teva - , and those of the two counties of Ohio, whose complaints were to open the debates.
Ohio is, behind West Virginia, the US state most affected by the epidemic of overdoses related to the use of painkillers. The lawsuit against a fifth company - the Walgreens pharmacy chain - has been postponed indefinitely.
Under the terms of the agreement, opiate distributors will pay $ 215 million (193 million euros) to plaintiffs, while Teva will pay them 20 million in cash and provide them with the equivalent of $ 25 million in Suboxone , a drug used in the treatment of addiction.
The arrangement avoids to all the parties a long and expensive process. Like all the agreements signed in recent years or currently under negotiation, it allows companies to avoid public and repeated denunciations of their practices, highly contested. However, it is far from closing the subject and is only a tiny part of the coming regulations. The ongoing discussions for a solution that would satisfy all plaintiffs would be about $ 48 billion, according to the US press.Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Opiate crisis: US companies try to get amicable settlements
A public health issue
Prepared for two years, this trial was to be the first, at the federal level, to highlight the responsibility of pharmaceutical companies in the health crisis ravaging the United States. With 400,000 deaths in twenty years, the overconsumption of opiates has become, in recent years, a public health issue.
Alerts on the addictive nature of these drugs have not been sufficiently heard by the health authorities and, as a result, have been completely overshadowed by the companies in the sector