21 states reject $18 billion offer from U.S. distributors to settle opioid lawsuits - WSJ

(Reuters) - Twenty one states have rejected an $18 billion settlement offer from three major drug distributors to resolve a litigation over their alleged role in the opioid crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing a letter sent to the companies' law firms earlier this week.

The dissenting states want the companies - AmeriSourceBergen Corp, McKesson Corp and Cardinal Health Inc - to pay between $22 billion and $32 billion, the WSJ reported, citing a person familiar with a matter.

Shares of the three companies, which together control about 85% of the U.S. prescription drug market, fell nearly 1% in morning trading.

Some 400,000 U.S. overdose deaths between 1997 and 2017 were linked to opioids, according to government data, and more than 2,500 lawsuits have been brought nationwide by states, local and tribal governments.

A trial is scheduled to begin on March 20 wherein the state of New York and the counties of Suffolk and Nassau are suing drug distributors, drugmakers such as Johnson & Johnson and pharmacy chains including CVS Health Corp.

The rejected $18 billion settlement was proposed on the eve of the last major opioid trial in Cleveland in October, and the New York trial date could help push the parties to a deal.

McKesson is focused on finalizing a global settlement structure that would provide billions of dollars in immediate funding and relief to states and local communities, a company spokesman said in an emailed statement.

"We are committed to being part of the solution, but are also prepared to defend ourselves vigorously if the litigation progresses," he added.

AmeriSourceBergen and Cardinal Health did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment.

Reuters reported in October that several U.S. states were pushing back on a proposed $48 billion settlement to resolve claims against the distributors and two drugmakers, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Inc and J&J.

The letter was signed by attorneys general for 21 states as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, according to the WSJ report on Friday.

02/14/2020 16:08

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