Three drug distributors in negotiations to settle opioid litigation for $18 billion: report

According to people familiar with the matter, drug distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health are in discussions to collectively pay $18 billion over 18 years to resolve multiple US opioid lawsuits, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The three are among companies scheduled to go to trial on October 21 in US federal court to face lawsuits from two Ohio counties that were selected to serve as a bellwether for broader litigation.

Some of the sources indicated that Johnson & Johnson, which earlier this month agreed to pay $20.4 million to settle with the two Ohio counties, is also involved in the latest discussions to contribute additional money. The company reiterated Tuesday that it remains "open to viable options to resolve these cases, including through settlement." The Wall Street Journal noted that any final deal could include other companies.

The news follows Purdue Pharma's recent bankruptcy filing as part of a tentative deal to settle opioid lawsuits with multiple US states. Under that agreement, Purdue would provide more than $10 billion to address the opioid crisis, while the company's owners, the Sackler family, would contribute at least $3 billion. However, some states have come out against the settlement, arguing that the Sacklers should contribute more.

Meanwhile, Mallinckrodt recently finalised a settlement agreement with the two Ohio counties under which it will pay $24 million in cash and provide $6 million in generic products, including addiction treatment products. Similarly, Allergan and Endo have also reached settlements with the two counties of $5 million and $10 million, respectively.

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