US state attorneys-general and lawyers for local governments are expected to unveil a landmark, $US26 billion ($A35 billion) settlement resolving claims that the three largest US drug distributors and drug maker Johnson & Johnson helped fuel a nationwide opioid epidemic.
According to a person familiar with the matter, saysUnder the settlement proposal, distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp are expected to pay a combined $US21 billion, while Johnson & Johnson would pay $US5 billion.
More than 40 states are expected to sign on to the settlement, the source said, while others could opt to move forward with their own cases.
The financial terms are in line with prior disclosures by the three distributors and J&J about what they expected to have to pay following long-running settlement talks.
The companies have previously denied wrongdoing.
Nearly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the US from 1999 to 2019, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
The opioid crisis appeared to have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CDC last week said 2020 was a record year for drug overdose deaths, with 93,331, up 29 per cent from a year earlier. Opioids were involved in almost 75 per cent of those deaths.
The distributors were accused of lax controls that allowed massive amounts of addictive painkillers to be diverted into illegal channels, devastating communities, while J&J was accused of playing down the addiction risk.
Governments have said the money will be used to fund addiction treatment and other health initiatives to address the crisis.
Other settlements are also being negotiated, with the opioid makers Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt Plc working through the bankruptcy courts to secure support for settlements worth more than $US10 billion and $US1.6 billion, respectively.