'Kingpin Within the Drug Cartel' Tries to Avoid Federal Opioid Trial

By Kelly Burch 09/11/19

Mallinckrodt has proposed to settle with two Ohio counties, which would allow the drug maker to avoid a forthcoming federal opioid trial in October.

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Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, a lesser known but still a major player in opioid manufacturing, has reached a tentative settlement with two Ohio counties as part of federal opioid litigation. 

Mallinckrodt agreed to pay $24 million to Cuyahoga and Summit Counties and donate $6 million in pharmaceuticals, including addiction treatment drugs, to those counties, The New York Times reported. 

The Proposed Settlement

The settlement would allow Mallinckrodt to avoid being part of the first federal bellwether trial of drug makers, distributors and retailers, which is slated to begin in October. The agreement “gives us the necessary time to continue to work towards a global resolution of the opioid lawsuits,” Mallinckrodt’s General Counsel Mark Casey said in a statement. 

Judge Dan Polster has pushed for a settlement in the opioid lawsuits, which include more than 2,300 suits from cities, states and counties. 

Although it is common in settlements for documents relating to the case to be sealed, most of the documentation in the federal opioid cases will remain open. That’s significant, said Adam Zimmerman, a law professor in Los Angeles. 

“It means that all of this information in the federal litigation, which is so vital to our understanding about what happened, how we got here, will remain open,” he said. 

DEA Called It the 'Kingpin Within the Drug Cartel'

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals isn’t as well known as Purdue Pharma or Johnson & Johnson, but the company played a massive role in the opioid epidemic, authorities say. The company controlled 38% of opioid sales between 2006 and 2012. Purdue, for comparison, held just 3% of the market during that time. 

Barbara J. Boockholdt, former chief of the regulatory section at DEA’s Office of Diversion, said even she didn’t realize how massive Mallinckrodt’s hold was until she checked the data. 

“I was shocked; I couldn’t believe it, Mallinckrodt was the biggest, and then there was Actavis,” she told The Washington Post. “Everyone had been talking about Purdue, but they weren’t even close.”

The details of the settlement have not yet been finalized. However, the funds and the pharmaceuticals will give “both counties critically needed resources in the ongoing response to the opioid crisis as well as protection in any future insolvency proceeding by Mallinckrodt,” lawyers for the counties said in a statement. 

The company’s stock fell up to 40% after reports emerged saying that Mallinckrodt was exploring bankruptcy, but president and CEO Mark Trudeau said those reports were unfounded. That caused stock to rebound partially. Trudeau added that his company will likely stop selling opioids. 

He said, “Fundamentally we are just not the best owners of this business.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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