21 states reject $18 bln offer from U.S. distributors to settle opioid lawsuits - WSJ

Adds details on global settlement, share movement

Feb 14 (Reuters) Twenty one states have rejected an $18 billion settlement offer from three major drug distributors to resolve a litigation over their alleged role in the opioid crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing a letter sent to the companies’ law firms earlier this week.

The dissenting states want the companies – AmeriSourceBergen Corp ABC.N, McKesson Corp MCK.N and Cardinal Health Inc CAH.N – to pay between $22 billion and $32 billion, the WSJ reported, citing a person familiar with a matter.

Shares of the three companies, which together control about 85% of the U.S. prescription drug market, fell nearly 1% in morning trading.

McKesson is focused on finalizing a global settlement structure that would provide billions of dollars in immediate funding and relief to states and local communities, a company spokesman said in an emailed statement.

“We are committed to being part of the solution, but are also prepared to defend ourselves vigorously if the litigation progresses,” he added.

AmeriSourceBergen and Cardinal Health did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Reuters reported in October that several U.S. states were pushing back on a proposed $48 billion settlement to resolve claims against the distributors and two drugmakers, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Inc TEVA.TA, TEVA.N and Johnson & Johnson JNJ.J.

The letter was signed by attorneys general for 21 states as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, according to the WSJ report on Friday.

(Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

((saumya.joseph@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780, outside U.S. +91 80 6182 2676; Twitter: @SaumyaSibi;))

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