Daily on Healthcare, presented by SBEC: First federal opioid trial averted at the 11th hour

By | October 21, 2019

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FIRST FEDERAL OPIOID TRIAL AVERTED: A major trial over the opioid crisis that was to set the stage for thousands of cases across America was averted Monday morning after two Ohio counties settled with drug companies.

The Ohio counties, Cuyahoga and Summit, accepted $ 260 million in settlement from Teva, the pharmaceutical company that makes generic prescription painkillers, as well as from drug distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen. Henry Schein Medical, a smaller distributor, reached a settlement of $ 1.25 million.

And while Walgreens was another defendant in the case, it was decided it would go to trial within six months if it does not reach a settlement before then, according to the Associated Press.

The companies are being accused of improperly marketing prescription painkillers and of failing to raise the alarm when massive amounts of prescriptions were going to pharmacies and patients. They deny wrongdoing and the settlements were announced just hours before opening arguments.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, a Bill Clinton appointee, has encouraged a settlement to avoid a time-consuming litigation process that almost certainly would have included appeals by the losing side.

The case was going to serve as a guide for more than 2,600 other lawsuits over the opioid crisis and would have laid bare internal documents about company tactics. A more comprehensive deal will eventually have to be reached, or otherwise we’ll see other cases go to trial.

It initially appeared on Monday morning that the case with the Ohio counties would go ahead after a larger settlement involving communities across the U.S. crumbled this weekend. The plaintiffs turned down a $ 48 billion settlement, largely because it would have been paid out over 18 years.

The spate of lawsuits are intended to help communities repair the damage from the opioid crisis, which claims about 50,000 lives a year and started 20 years ago by improper prescribing of highly addictive painkillers. A recent study by the Society of Actuaries found that the opioid crisis cost the U.S. economy $ 631 billion over four years, including costs of foregone work, of treatment, and of pressure on the criminal justice system.

Other pharmaceutical companies have settled as well. Johnson & Johnson appealed a judge’s decision in Oklahoma from August that the company played down the risks of opioids and must pay $ 572 million. That amount was lower than the $ 17 billion the state had sought and is only expected to pay for a year of services.

Good morning and welcome to the Washington Examiner’s Daily on Healthcare! This newsletter is written by senior healthcare reporter Kimberly Leonard (@LeonardKL) and healthcare reporter Cassidy Morrison (@CassMorrison94). You can reach us with tips, calendar items, or suggestions at dailyonhealthcare@washingtonexaminer.com. If someone forwarded you this email and you’d like to receive it regularly, you can subscribe here.

ELIZABETH WARREN TEASES FUNDING PLAN FOR ‘MEDICARE FOR ALL’: Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren promised a crowd of nearly 500 that she would unveil a plan to finance “Medicare for All,” which has been the subject of scrutiny for weeks because she wouldn’t admit whether she would raise taxes to cover the costs. “This is something I’ve been working on for months and months, and it’s got just a little more work until it’s finished,” Warren said at Simpson College in Iowa.

SANDERS CAMPAIGN CHAIR SAYS ALL CANDIDATES’ HEALTH SHOULD BE UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: The national chairwoman of Bernie Sanders’ campaign, Nina Turner, told supporters at a Saturday rally in Queens not only that the Vermont senator is back and healthy, but that ageism is pervasive in the 2020 campaign and all candidates’ health should be scrutinized. Since his recent heart attack, Sanders’ poll numbers have been falling as some voters who were previously “feeling the Bern” may have some second thoughts about whether he has the stamina to hold office.

JOHNSON & JOHNSON RECALLS BABY POWDER AFTER ASBESTOS IS DISCOVERED: Embattled pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson has decided to recall baby powder after the FDA found chrysotile fibers, a type of asbestos, in a sample of products.

CONSERVATIVE NONPROFIT LAUNCHES CAMPAIGN ATTACKING PELOSI DRUG PRICING BILL: The American Action Network launched a $ 2.5 million ad campaign across 22 congressional districts attacking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bill to allow the government to negotiate drug pricing and to penalize manufacturers that don’t comply. The AAN calls the plan a “socialist takeover” and a “backdoor into the socialist healthcare system the far-left has been dreaming of for years.”

ANTI-ABORTION GROUP SPEARHEADS SWEEPING AD CAMPAIGN IN KENTUCKY: Susan B. Anthony List Action PAC launched a $ 750,000 campaign Friday in support of Republican Governor Matt Bevin’s reelection and of Daniel Cameron and Allison Ball running for state attorney general and reelection as state treasurer. It includes digital attack ads calling Kentucky Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear a “pro-abortion extremist” who supports “abortion on demand up to the moment of birth.” The SBA List is also funding campaign efforts on the ground in Kentucky ahead of Election Day, Nov. 5.

The Rundown

The Washington Post ‘They looked at us like an easy target’

WAMU For generation Juul, nicotine addiction happens fast and is hard to shake

Chicago Tribune Nearly 6,000 Chicagoans to get letters this holiday season saying their unpaid medical debt is forgiven. Learn about the group behind the gifts.

The Atlantic What doctors can learn from the dark web

Calendar

TUESDAY | Oct. 22

9 a.m. 1225 I St. NW. Bipartisan Policy Center event on “U.S. Drug Pricing Policy: Tools to Increase Access and Affordability.” Details.

9:30 a.m. 1100 Longworth. House Ways and Means Committee markup of healthcare legislation. Details.

WEDNESDAY | Oct. 23

10 a.m. 2123 Rayburn. House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on “Sabotage: The Trump Administration’s Attack on Healthcare.” Details.

FRIDAY | Oct. 25

Noon. Reserve Officers Association Building. 1 Constitution Ave NE. Alliance for Health Policy congressional briefing on “Modernizing Medicare Part D.” Details

Healthcare