PhotoAs their trial in connection with the opioid epidemic was set to begin, four drug companies have reportedly agreed to a settlement with two Ohio counties.

The Wall Street Journal reports AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson, and Israel-based drugmaker Teva Pharmaceutical will announce the $256 million settlement later today. There is one other defendant in the case -- pharmacy retailers Walgreens -- but it may or may not be included in the reported deal.

The lawsuit is one of thousands filed by state and local jurisdictions that blame drug companies and distributors for the opioid addiction crisis that has gripped wide areas of the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts the number of opioid overdose deaths at 400,000 from 1997 to 2017.

Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio have sued, asking for $8 billion to pay for addiction treatment programs and to cover other addiction-related expenses, including health care and law enforcement.

In a joint statement over the weekend, McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen denied charges leveled in the lawsuit and said they only fulfilled their legal role.

“We remain deeply concerned by the impact the opioid epidemic is having on families and communities across our nation — and we’re committed to being part of the solution,” the companies said in their statement.

Other settlements

So far, the two Ohio counties have reached settlements with various companies involved in opioid drug manufacturing and distribution, totaling more than $60 million. The settlements include Johnson & Johnson, Endo International, Mallinckrodt, and Allergan.

The settlement with Johnson & Johnson was announced earlier this month. The company said it agreed to the Ohio settlement in order to prevent a lengthy trial. It said the settlement agreement did not suggest Johnson & Johnson was admitting that it played a role in the widespread addiction to painkiller drugs.

Under the terms of the settlement, Johnson & Johnson also agreed to reimburse $5 million of the counties’ legal and other expenses incurred in preparation for the trial. The company will also direct $5.4 million of its charitable contributions to non-profit organizations in connection with opioid-related programs in these two counties.

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