(Adds details of judge's letter)
By Nate Raymond
17. October (Reuters) – Leaders of the three largest US drug distributors and a drug manufacturer have been called to meet with a federal judge to discuss a proposal to resolve thousands of lawsuits alleging they ran the US opioid crisis, a person familiar with case Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of Cleveland, Ohio, moved as distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Israel-based medicine manufacturer Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd moved to reach an agreement in advance of a lawsuit before Polster as begins on Monday.
These companies along with Johnson & Johnson have negotiated a settlement they value at about $ 50 billion that would allow them to resolve 2,600 lawsuits brought nationwide, mostly by states and localities, said people familiar with the matter .
All of these companies except J&J are set to be defendants in the trial before Polster, who oversees the bulk of the lawsuit. Polster has been pushing for an agreement that could "do something meaningful to reduce this crisis."
The companies have discussed the settlement with four state attorneys not before Polster, sources told Reuters on Wednesday. Lawyers for the local authorities say they have not decided whether to support them.
Late Thursday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost raised concerns about the proposed agreement with his colleagues in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, who are leading negotiations.
Yost, in a letter seen by Reuters, said he feared the four attorneys would not consult other states. He said he threatened to repeat the problems with a proposed $ 10 billion settlement with OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma LP, which has split states between supporters and opponents of the deal.
He also said that opioid settlements must go to resolve the crisis, not general budgetary purposes. He worried local government lawyers could be paid hundreds of millions of dollars for his work, and he wanted it reduced.
Yost also said that only a few states have filed claims against drug distributors, and it would be unfair to treat all states the same in a settlement.
The letter was posted on the website cleveland.com and Reuters also received a copy.
Under the proposal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health would pay $ 18 billion over 18 years and J&J would pay According to two people familiar with the case, gave $ 4 billion.
Teva has offered to give away medicines that it values at $ 15 billion as part of an overall deal that it values at around $ 28 billion that it will also provide distribution services, the people said.
Cardinal CEO spokesmen Michael Kaufmann and AmerisourceBergen CEO Steven Collis declined to say whether they would be in Cleveland on Friday. Representatives of Teva CEO Kare Schultz and McKesson CEO Brian Tyler did not answer questions about whether they would be in court.
Opioids were responsible for approximately 400,000 overdose deaths in the United States from 1999 to 2017, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The lawsuits accuse drug manufacturers of misleading marketing of opioids in ways that negated the risk, and drug distributors for failing to detect and stop suspicious orders. They refuse wrongdoing.
The cases prompted OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP to file for bankruptcy protection in September after reaching a preliminary agreement that it says is worth at least $ 10 billion to resolve the cases. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston and Tom Hals in Delaware Editing by Bill Berkrot and Lincoln Feast)