drug abuse

Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET

Three of the biggest U.S. drug distributors and a drug manufacturer have reached a last-minute deal with two Ohio counties to avoid what would have been the first trial in a landmark federal case on the opioid crisis.

Summit and Cuyahoga counties announced Monday morning that the tentative deal amounts to roughly $260 million.

The nation's response to the deadly opioid epidemic has been broadly bipartisan, but deep divides have emerged over a settlement plan offered last month by Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin.

Democratic state attorneys general have generally panned the deal, which would force Purdue's owners, member of the Sackler family, to give up control of their company while paying roughly $3 billion in cash from their personal fortunes.

Chris Landsberger / The Oklahoman

At a hearing Tuesday, Oklahoma Judge Thad Balkman acknowledged he made a $107 million math error in his verdict on the state’s opioid case. The judge says he’ll correct the error in an upcoming ruling.

Three major U.S. drug distributing companies are negotiating a multibillion-dollar settlement to end numerous lawsuits filed by state and local governments seeking compensation for costs associated with the opioid crisis.

The drug distributors — Amerisource Bergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health — could pay as much as $18 billion over 18 years, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the discussions.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

In less than a week, a landmark battle over who bears responsibility for the U.S. opioid crisis will begin in federal court.

The case involves thousands of plaintiffs at virtually every level of government and defendants from every link in the chain of opioid drug production — from major multinational corporations such as Johnson & Johnson and CVS, right down to individual doctors. And on Oct. 21, the first trial is set to kick off before a judge in the Northern District of Ohio.

There's no doubt that opioids have been massively overprescribed in U.S. In the haste to address the epidemic, there's been pressure on doctors to reduce prescriptions of these drugs — and in fact prescriptions are declining. But along the way, some chronic pain patients have been forced to rapidly taper or discontinue the drugs altogether.

Now, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has a new message for doctors: Abrupt changes to a patient's opioid prescription could harm them.

Editor's note: To protect the anonymity of the children in this story, we are not using their names.

Children are often called the hidden casualties of the opioid epidemic. They carry a lot of secrets and shame.

A Virginia doctor received a 40-year prison sentence on Wednesday for illegally prescribing more than half a million doses of oxycodone, hydromorphone, fentanyl and other opioids to patients for years.

Authorities say Dr. Joel Smithers operated a "pill mill" out of Martinsville, Va., located about 15 miles north of the Virginia-North Carolina border and about 175 miles southwest of Richmond.

Johnson & Johnson and two Ohio counties have reached a tentative $20.4 million settlement that removes the corporation from the first federal lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, scheduled to begin later this month.

What Pittsburgh police first called a medical situation that left three people dead and four hospitalized is now believed to be an isolated drug overdose incident.

"We do not believe this particular incident is going to be widespread," Pittsburgh police commander for narcotics Jason Lando said. "So we are not in a situation where we expect people to be found in an overdosed state all over the city."

Early Sunday morning, a 911 call was placed for an unresponsive man at an apartment building on the city's South Side.

Pages