21 States Reject $18 Billion Offer From Drug Wholesalers to Settle Opioid Litigation -- Update
By Jared S. Hopkins
An $18 billion settlement offer from three major drug
wholesalers aimed at resolving litigation over their alleged role
in the opioid crisis has fallen apart, after more than 20 state
attorneys general rejected it in a letter sent to the companies'
law firms earlier this week.
The letter, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, shows that the
drug industry hasn't won enough support from states to begin moving
the sprawling litigation to a global resolution.
The dissenting states want the wholesalers to contribute between
$22 billion and $32 billion, according to a person familiar with
The rejection is the latest setback in negotiations to resolve
the nation's complex opioid-crisis litigation, which began several
years ago. The majority of the lawsuits have been consolidated in
federal court in Cleveland, though state attorneys general have
largely pursued cases in their own state courts.
The parties have been holding talks since at least October, when
The Wall Street Journal reported that the three distributors --
McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and Cardinal Health Inc.
-- were in talks to collectively pay $18 billion over 18 years.
Johnson & Johnson was also involved in the discussions to
contribute additional money, the Journal reported.
The letter was signed by attorneys general for 21 states as well
as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and include some of the
hardest hit by the opioid crisis, including Ohio and West
AmeriSourceBergen said it remains committed to a "fair
negotiated resolution" but will continue to defend itself in court
and is preparing for upcoming trials. It said in a statement it was
"disappointed to hear that some states do not currently understand
the merits of the global settlement framework that the distributors
have been discussing with the attorneys' general over the past many
McKesson said it is focused on "finalizing a global settlement
structure that would serve as the best path forward to provide
billions of dollars in immediate funding and relief to states and
local communities." The company said it is committed to be part of
a solution but is prepared to defend itself in litigation.
Cardinal Health didn't respond to a request for comment.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in an interview the letter
shows the states "who are not willing to sign on" to the
settlement. He said the wholesalers should pay their $18 billion in
a shorter time period or provide more funding.
The letter is signed mostly by Democratic attorneys general,
although there are some Republicans, including West Virginia's
Patrick Morrissey and Florida's Ashley Moody.
"Each of you has expressed that your clients seek a settlement
that is global," the letter reads. "It is our collective view that
the most recently communicated offer is unlikely to achieve that
goal. We invite you to discuss our specific issues more fully so
that a global settlement may be reached."
Write to Jared S. Hopkins at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 14, 2020 10:29 ET (15:29 GMT)
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