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The McKesson Corporation’s headquarters stands in San Francisco on April 5, 2019.ANASTASIIA SAPON/The New York Times News Service

McKesson Corp said on Tuesday it and two other drug distributors could be expected pay up to $21 billion for the potential settlement of lawsuits alleging they fueled the U.S. opioid epidemic.

McKesson, along with AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, had proposed in October last year paying a combined $18 billion to resolve the 3,000-plus lawsuits, with the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson paying $4 billion.

AmerisourceBergen declined to comment. Cardinal Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuits were largely filed by states, counties and cities and sought to hold the companies responsible for an opioid addiction epidemic that according to U.S. government data resulted in 450,000 overdose deaths from 1997 to 2018.

That proposal, part of a settlement framework negotiated with four state attorneys general, met resistance from lawyers for local governments and several states, leading to further talks. J&J on Oct. 13 said it would now contribute $5 billion.

McKesson in a quarterly report said that under the new $21 billion settlement framework proposed by attorneys general, the San Francisco-based company would pay about $8 billion over 18 years.

The three distributors would also be required to make changes to their programs to guard against the diversion of drugs for illicit purposes, McKesson said.

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