1. ITV Report

Four drug firms in America reach £200 million out of court opioid settlement

A drugs manufacturer and three distribution companies have reached a £200 million ($260 million) out of court settlement with two counties in Ohio over the opioid drugs crisis in America.

Opioid use has been linked to the deaths of more than 400,000 people over the past two decades in US.

More than half of them (218,000) are linked to drugs originally prescribed by a doctor for pain relief.

Once hooked on prescription opioids, patients move on to cheaper versions of the drug such as heroin.

Over a hundred people die a day of an overdose in America. Credit: ITV News

There has been a long legal battle to hold the pharmaceutical industry to account over their role in this growing crisis. The companies stand accused of aggressively marketing opioids and downplaying the risk of addiction, accusations they deny.

The US government has estimated the cost to society at almost $80 billion a year and the human cost is even greater with 130 people a day dying from overdoses in America.

The Ohio lawsuit was brought by two counties, Cuyahoga and Summit, against McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, drug distributors and Teva Pharmaceutical, the maker of generic opioids.

Walgreens Boots Alliance, the fifth defendant, has not yet announced an agreement.

Many addicts were first prescribed opioids as a painkiller. Credit: ITV News

The £200 million settlement will be used to help the people who need it in the communities around the States gripped by this addiction, say campaigners. The money be used to get people into treatment programmes and, they hope, go someway to mitigate the "terrible damage" the crisis has had.

The opioid epidemic has cost the US more than £390 billion ($504 billion), according to a 2017 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers.