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Drug distributors in talks to settle $ 18 billion opioid lawsuits



Three major drug distributors are in talks to pay $ 18 billion to settle sweeping lawsuits brought by state and local authorities accusing them of fueling the opioid crisis, said people familiar with the discussions, and potentially marking a broad resolution to lawsuits that have shaken the pharmaceutical industry.

The three distributors—

McKesson Corp

,

AmerisourceBergen Corp

, and

Cardinal Health Inc.

– would collectively pay $ 18 billion over 18 years under the agreement currently on the table, the people said.

Johnson & Johnson

are also involved in the discussions to contribute extra money, some of the people said.

Actors up and down the pharmaceutical supply chain, including medicine manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, have been sued by virtually every state and thousands of city and county municipalities. Over 2,000 lawsuits claim the industry's overly aggressive marketing of prescription painkillers and lack of supervision over drug distribution contributed to widespread opioid addiction.

At least 400,000 people have died in the United States from legal and illegal opioid overdoses since 1

999, according to federal data. The lawsuits seek to recover the costs that society has with widespread addiction, including burdens on emergency services, medical care and fetal services for children born to dependent parents.

The press has increased pharmaceutical companies to determine opioid litigation goals and to acknowledge responsibility. McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health are among companies scheduled to go to trial Monday in Cleveland federal court in the two Ohio counties that have been chosen to serve as a watchmaker for the broader lawsuit.

Any final agreement may include other companies. The talks have raised the idea that the settlement will include donating drugs to opioid addiction.

If concluded, the settlement would be the first to achieve a broad resolution of the non-bankruptcy opioid lawsuits. OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP filed for bankruptcy last month to try to settle a settlement worth about $ 10 billion to $ 12 billion, but faces opposition from some states that the owners – members of the Sackler family – should contribute more to the deal. [19659002] Johnson & Johnson reiterated on Tuesday an advance statement that "we are open to viable alternatives to resolve these cases, including through settlement."

A spokeswoman for Cardinal declined to comment. AmerisourceBergen had no immediate comment, and McKesson did not respond to requests for comment.

The agreement still needs the support of factions of plaintiff's lawyers and authorities with different interests. A bipartisan coalition of Texas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and North Carolina attorneys general has led the discussions that generated the current proposal, the people said. The Attorney General is scheduled to have a talk Tuesday evening to hear more about the agreement.

Write to Sara Randazzo at sara.randazzo@wsj.com

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