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Oct. 15, 2019, 5:00 p.m. EDT

Major drug distributors in talks to settle opioid lawsuits for $18 billion

Potential settlement could head off federal trial slated to start Monday

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By Sara Randazzo


AFP/Getty Images
At least 400,000 people have died in the U.S. from overdoses of legal and illegal opioids since 1999, according to federal data.

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

The three distributors — McKesson Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206975466/composite MCK +3.20%  , AmerisourceBergen Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201066379/composite ABC +1.78%  , and Cardinal Health Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206646342/composite CAH +0.65%   — would collectively pay $18 billion over 18 years under the deal currently on the table, the people said. Johnson & Johnson /zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite JNJ -0.48%   is also involved in the discussions to contribute additional money, some of the people said.

Players up and down the pharmaceutical supply chain, including drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies, have been sued by virtually every state and thousands of city and county governments. Over 2,000 lawsuits allege the industry’s overly aggressive marketing of prescription painkillers and lax oversight over drug distribution contributed to widespread opioid addiction.

Pressure has mounted on pharmaceutical companies to settle the opioid lawsuits and cap the liability. McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health are among companies slated to go to trial Monday in federal court in Cleveland in the cases of two Ohio counties that have been chosen to serve as a bellwether for the broader litigation.

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

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/zigman2/quotes/206975466/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 144.83
+4.49 +3.20%
Volume: 2.31M
Nov. 12, 2019 4:10p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
1.13%
Market Cap
$25.29 billion
Rev. per Employee
$2.74M
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/zigman2/quotes/201066379/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 85.54
+1.50 +1.78%
Volume: 1.11M
Nov. 12, 2019 4:10p
P/E Ratio
21.23
Dividend Yield
1.87%
Market Cap
$17.51 billion
Rev. per Employee
$8.23M
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/zigman2/quotes/206646342/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 54.03
+0.35 +0.65%
Volume: 3.43M
Nov. 12, 2019 4:10p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
3.56%
Market Cap
$15.70 billion
Rev. per Employee
$2.83M
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/zigman2/quotes/201724570/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 131.35
-0.63 -0.48%
Volume: 5.23M
Nov. 12, 2019 4:10p
P/E Ratio
25.02
Dividend Yield
2.89%
Market Cap
$347.35 billion
Rev. per Employee
$603,509
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