States reject drug wholesalers' $18B opioid settlement offer: WSJ

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States rejected an opioid settlement offer by distributors, The Wall Street Journal reports. (Getty Images)

After years of opioid litigation and a multibillion-dollar settlement offer from the nation's top drug distributors, nearly two dozen U.S. states have rejected their proposal, The Wall Street Journal reports

Twenty-one state attorneys general sent a letter to the law firms for AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health turning down the offer, WSJ reports. Instead of the $18 billion the companies had offered, the attorneys general are looking for $22 billion to $32 billion to help alleviate the addiction crisis in their states, a source told the newspaper. 

The rejection adds yet another complication to the yearslong opioid litigation, now mostly centered in Cleveland federal court. Thousands of localities have sued opioid makers and distributors, alleging pharma companies downplayed risks and oversold benefits of opioids for treating everyday pain. They say distributors failed to monitor suspicious orders and flooded communities with way too many pills.

Meanwhile, state attorneys general are pursuing lawsuits of their own, creating a complex web of litigation that continues to weigh on companies.

RELATED: Teva, J&J make multibillion-dollar settlement offers as opioid trial gets going

It's unclear how the latest development will affect settlement proposals from pharma companies such as Teva and Johnson & Johnson, which each have floated multibillion-dollar offers. Teva has offered $23 billion in free drugs to help fight the epidemic, while J&J offered $4 billion. 

The deals haven't been finalized, and Teva CEO Kåre Schultz told Barron's this week he hoped the deal would be finished by mid-March, although he couldn't guarantee that.

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