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Nevada to join $26 billion opioid settlement with J&J, drug distributors

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) -Nevada has agreed to join a proposed nationwide settlement worth up to $26 billion resolving claims that three large U.S. drug distributors and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson fueled a deadly opioid epidemic, the state’s attorney general said on Tuesday.

Nevada was one of a handful of states that until now was not participating in the landmark accord that would resolve thousands of opioid lawsuits against J&J, McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Health Inc <CAH.N>.[nL1N2Q60H4]

The announcement came after the settlement’s backers agreed to extend to Jan. 26 a deadline for cities and counties in states that backed the proposal to opt-in to the settlements, citing the potential for more states to join.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford in a statement said he was optimistic the state’s local governments would join the settlements, allowing the state to receive more than $285 million.

“There is no question that the opioid epidemic has devastated Nevada and money is needed now to address comprehensive statewide remediation,” he said.

AmerisourceBergen declined to comment. Other companies did not respond to requests for comment.

More than 3,300 lawsuits largely by state and local governments have been filed seeking to hold those and other companies responsible for an opioid abuse crisis that led to hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths over two decades. The companies deny wrongdoing.

The distributors said in September that 42 states, five territories and Washington, D.C., had agreed to participate in their $21 billion settlement. A similar number backed a related $5 billion deal with J&J.

The extent state and local governments participate will shape how much the companies ultimately must pay and how much outstanding litigation they face.

New Mexico, another holdout state, on Dec. 7 signed on, and lead plaintiffs’ lawyers in the litigation have said they expect more to follow.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Leslie Adler and Marguerita Choy)

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