Alabama delays trial, nears opioid settlement with McKesson

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Illustration photo shows various medicine pills in their original packaging in Brussels, Belgium August 9, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Illustration

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(Reuters) - Alabama is negotiating a settlement with drug distributor McKessen Corp, ahead of a planned trial on the state's claim that the company fueled an addiction crisis there, it said in a court order.

The trial had been scheduled to begin on April 18 in Montgomery County Circuit Court, but that date has been pushed back indefinitely to allow the parties "to complete a settlement," according to the order filed Wednesday.

Details about the settlement were not immediately available. McKesson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Alabama accused McKesson of failing to prevent the diversion of opioids for illicit purposes, which McKesson has denied.

Alabama initially filed its lawsuit against both McKesson and drugmaker Endo International PLC, but it settled its claims against Endo last fall.

Alabama was one of four states that declined to join a nationwide $26 billion opioid settlement by McKesson, two other distributors and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson that was finalized in February. That settlement largely resolved the four companies' liability in state and local government lawsuits related to an opioid abuse epidemic that caused nearly 500,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2019.

Several U.S. states have reached opioid settlements in recent weeks, including Florida, West Virginia, Texas and Rhode Island.

Florida and West Virginia both settled with some defendants ahead of opioid trials that began in April. Florida reached settlements totaling more than $878 million with CVS Health Corp and three drug companies in March, and it began a trial against Walgreens Boots Alliance on April 11.

The case is State of Alabama v. Endo Health Solutions Inc, Montgomery County Circuit Court, Alabama, No. CV-2019-901174.

For Alabama: Jere Beasley and Rhon Jones of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles; and Robert Prince of Prince Glover Hayes

For McKesson: Harlan Prater of Lightfoot, Franklin & White; and H. Lewis Gillis of Means Gillis Law

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