The Summit County executive will be able to settle with drugmakers involved in the landmark October trial against dozens of opioid manufacturers and distributors without first getting approval from county council.

The council on Monday approved authorizing the executive to settle claims and execute corresponding settlement agreements in the opioid lawsuit with any manufacturing or distributor defendants or pharmacy defendants.

The resolution passed Monday amends a resolution council passed last month that authorized the executive to settle claims with any manufacturing or distributor defendants with less than a 10% share of the opioid market in Summit County.

“The concern was that we wanted to make sure that she [County Executive Ilene Shapiro] had the ability to move quickly on decisions for settlements because the thought was well, if they get a call, you know, we meet every Monday, but if they get a call on Tuesday, will the other side wait for us to have a meeting on, you know, the following Monday, and would we lose out on something,"said Summit County Council President Jeff Wilhite. "So it's more to give them, the administration, the flexibility and the response times that they might need in a negotiation like this...We thought that'd be the best way that we could hopefully recover some dollars and then have those dollars reimbursing what the county has spent over the years on the crisis and then be able to have those dollars for prevention and for rehab."

Before Monday’s resolution was passed, settlement agreements with companies with more than a 10% share of the opioid market in Summit County would have to have been brought before council.

Now, Shapiro will be able to settle with any manufacturing or distributor defendants regardless of its market share of the opioid market in Summit County without first getting council approval. The resolution also authorizes settlements with pharmacy defendants.

The county and 21 public agencies, towns, cities and villages in it launched a lawsuit in late 2017 demanding that 11 makers and three distributors of pain pills pay for the hundreds of overdose deaths and millions of dollars in public funds spent on the opioid crisis.

Some 2,000 lawsuits filed by local jurisdictions against nearly two dozen big drug companies have been consolidated into one federal case in Cleveland, with Summit and Cuyahoga counties serving as the lead plaintiffs. Gov. Mike DeWine has filed separate lawsuits on behalf of the state.

Judge Dan Polster in the U.S. District Court’s Northern District of Ohio has urged the parties to settle. He has set a firm trial date of Oct. 21.

Summit and Cuyahoga counties have reached three tentative settlements with drugmakers in relation to the case.

Last week, U.K.-based Mallinckrodt PLC announced a $30 million settlement in principle with the two counties, with $24 million in cash and $6 million in generic products, including addiction treatment products.

The two counties reached settlements in principle with two Ireland-based drugmakers last month: Endo agreed to pay $10 million and provide $1 million of two of its drugs free of charge to the two counties, while Allergan agreed to pay $5 million, with Cuyahoga getting $3.1 million and Summit getting $1.9 million.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has asked a federal court to stop the trial from proceeding in October until the state’s complaint goes to trial, a move Shapiro and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan have sharply criticized.

Yost announced Monday a bipartisan coalition of 14 attorneys general — from Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and the District of Columbia — and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed briefs in support of Yost’s petition.

Yost also faced backlash from Shapiro, Horrigan, DeWine and other local leaders over an earlier plan that would give the attorney general the authority to handle and dismiss lawsuits filed anywhere in Ohio against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

 

Contact reporter Emily Mills at 330-996-3334, emills@thebeaconjournal.com and @EmilyMills818.