Federal judge rules claims against drugmakers over opioid crisis can proceed to trial

A U.S. district judge ruled Tuesday that claims against drug companies over the opioid epidemic can go to trial, even as Purdue Pharma moves toward offering a settlement to those impacted.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is overseeing about 2,000 opioid lawsuits by state and local governments against drug manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and other drugmakers and distributors, held that the governments can try to prove that drugmakers’ marketing of prescription opioid painkillers, such as Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin, caused an increase in supply that pharmacies and other drug distributors did not stop, according to Reuters.

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“A factfinder could reasonably infer that these failures were a substantial factor in producing the alleged harm suffered by plaintiffs,” the Cleveland-based judge wrote. The ruling was among seven decisions totaling 80 pages released by Polster, Reuters reported.

The defendants named in the lawsuits also include the drugmaker Endo International PLC; pharmacy operators CVS Health Corp., Rite Aid Corp., Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Walmart Inc.; and distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp., Reuters reported. 

Polster also refused several other dismissal requests against drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies.

Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, are reportedly in talks on a $10 billion to $12 billion national settlement of claims related to the opioid crisis. The Ohio counties of Cuyahoga and Summit will go to trial against Purdue Pharma on Oct. 21, accusing the company of spurring the epidemic.

The opioid overdose and addiction crisis has killed more than 400,000 Americans since 2000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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