States, drug industry set to approve $26 billion opioid settlement this week

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Thousands of opioid-crisis lawsuits filed against major drug makers and distributors are nearing a conclusion, with the outlines of a $26 billion deal between states and four companies expected to be announced this week and a $1 billion settlement to resolve some of New York’s claims likely on Tuesday, people familiar with the matter said.

Drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp. 
ABC,
-0.25%,
Cardinal Health Inc.
CAH,
-1.41%
and McKesson Corp.
MCK,
-0.42%
 and manufacturer Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
-0.73%
 have been negotiating the $26 billion settlement for more than two years as a way to resolve thousands of lawsuits filed by state and local governments blaming them for helping fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic. From 1999 to 2019, the nation lost nearly half a million people to overdoses of prescription and illegal opioids, according to federal data.

Under the contours of the deal, states and municipalities still have several months to sign on, and the amount ultimately paid will depend on how many participate, the people familiar with the talks said. The companies can also still walk away if they aren’t satisfied with the number of states and governments that join, the people said.

New York, meanwhile, has struck a more than $1 billion deal with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal and McKesson midway through a trial against those companies and four other pharmaceutical firms,  some of the people said. That deal is expected to be announced Tuesday, they said, and would remove AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal and McKesson from the trial.

Johnson & Johnson already settled with New York for $263 million ahead of the trial.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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