Montgomery County prosecutors look to opioid settlement

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FILE – This Aug. 29, 2018, file photo shows an arrangement of prescription oxycodone pills in New York. U.S. health officials are again warning doctors against abandoning chronic pain patients by abruptly stopping their opioid prescriptions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services instead urged doctors Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, to share such decisions with patients. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Decisions in Cuyahoga County may inform how attorneys across the country approach a federal opioid case. 

Three drug distributors – AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson –  and a manufacturer, will pay Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County and Akron’s Summit County roughly $260 million, but will not have to admit to any wrongdoing as part of the deal.

The lawsuit claims distributors knowingly pushed addictive opioid-based drugs such as oxycontin, thereby being a lead contributor to the opioid crisis that has affected families across the country. 

The proposed settlement is being used as a test case for many attorneys participating in the federal case against these companies. 

The choice for plaintiffs is deciding between a large, federal settlement that could amount to billions; although is far less-likely, includes many years of waiting, and may potentially never happen. They may also decide to do as Cuyahoga and Summit County have chosen to do and settle for a smaller but more immediately available amount of money. 

Montgomery County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Heck said the settlement indicates a general willingness to settle by the distributors. 

Attorneys believe it may be preferable for the distributors to pay lower-cost settlements that remove those counties from the federal prosecution. Counties that settle would no longer be able to be a part of the federal lawsuit or any settlement derived from it. 

Montgomery County’s special prosecutor is the same prosecutor who settled the Cuyahoga and Summit County case. 

“They were pushing these pills for simply the bottom line,” said Heck, “regardless of what these opioids did to our citizens.” 

The money from the settlement would go to the plaintiffs and counties involved in the lawsuit. How the money is put into use or what programs it is applied to is worked out by the individual counties.  

Prosecuting Attorney Heck said he hopes that the money is used for education and does not go to waste the way many perceived similar tobacco-related settlements. 

To learn more information on the case and what it means for Montgomery County going forward, view the Web Exclusive extended interview with Prosecuting Attorney Matt Heck:

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