Pharma companies agree $260m payout over US opioid epidemic

Settlement averts federal trial over accusations that drug industry ‘conspired to profit from addiction’

Four major pharmaceutical companies have agreed a $260 million (£200m, €233m) settlement over the US opioid epidemic, averting what would have been the first federal opioid trial.

The drugs firms – Teva Pharmaceuticals, the largest manufacturer of generic drugs in the world, and three drug distributors, among the biggest corporations in America – were accused of conspiracy to profit from addiction and death.

The trial was intended to establish whether opioid makers, distributors and pharmacy chains are liable to pay out billions to thousands of counties, cities and Native American tribes blighted by an epidemic that has claimed more than 400,000 lives over the past two decades.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine.

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Emily Walden, chair of the Fed Up coalition of families hit by the epidemic and doctors who have spoken out against the wide prescribing of opioids, said: “We need hundreds of billions of dollars to deal with this crisis.”

A Society of Actuaries study has found that the epidemic has cost the US more than $630 billion in the past four years alone ranging from increased health and social care spending to loss of earnings by people who have died and pressure on the criminal justice system.

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