States Reject $18 Billion Opioid Settlement From Wholesalers

Attorneys general from more than 20 states rejected a proposed $18 billion settlement offer from three major drug wholesalers, saying it fell short of their expectations for as much as $32 billion, according to a Feb. 14 report by The Wall Street Journal, which viewed the letter.

The settlement was intended to resolve litigation against their alleged role in the opioid crisis that claims 130 lives each day in America.

The letter to attorneys for the three drug distributors — McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. — was signed by attorneys general in some of the hardest hit areas in the opioid addiction crisis, including Ohio, Florida and West Virginia as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Although the attorneys general rejected the $18 billion offer, active negotiation talks were ongoing as the states sought an amount between $22 billion to $32 billion, several news outlets reported.

Another hangup is how quickly the money would be paid out. The $18 billion settlement would have been paid out over 18 years, which the attorneys general felt was too long and that the wholesalers could afford to pay it over a shorter period of time.

“We’re far along in the process of talks and still negotiating,” a spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told Reuters.

This proposed settlement would only resolve those states’ claims against those three distributors, and doesn’t apply to other lawsuits against Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and drugmakers such as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.

Separately, another trial in New York is scheduled to begin in March in which the state of New York and private plaintiffs’ attorneys representing Suffolk and Nassau counties are suing drugmakers such as Johnson & Johnson, distributors and pharmacy chains including CVS Health Corp.

Almost every state in America and more than 2,500 cities and municipalities have filed suits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies for their respective roles in the opioid epidemic.

Most of the suits allege that drugmakers used deceptive marketing tactics and downplayed addiction and overdose risks, and that drug wholesalers neglected to detect and prevent suspicious orders.

In October, four companies reached a $260 million settlement in Cleveland just hours before the first federal opioid trial was scheduled to begin. That settlement resolved claims that Ohio counties Cuyahoga and Summit made against AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, Cardinal Health and Teva Pharmaceuticals.