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Hedge funds and short sellers are raising their bets that lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies will drive down their stock prices and maybe even put them out of business.

The intrigue: Data from S3 Partners provided exclusively to Axios shows bets against biotech and pharmaceutical companies have risen 12% since the beginning of the year to nearly $62 billion of short interest.

  • "Wall Street is underestimating the impact on companies from the opioid litigation," Justin Simon of health-care hedge fund Jasper Capital Management told the Wall Street Journal.

Driving the news: Close to 2,000 lawsuits have been filed accusing big pharma companies of fueling the opioid epidemic. Drugmakers including Mallinckrodt, Allergan, Endo Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson and Teva, and several drug distributors have been named as defendants.

Why you'll hear about this again: Jasper has been betting against Mallinckrodt and other companies named in the lawsuits, WSJ reports, noting that "Some hedge funds have been watching for distress in the sector, citing certain companies' use of leverage or declining profitability."

  • "On Teva's most recent earnings call, Chief Executive Kåre Schultz said, 'As you know, we have a lot of debt, so we don’t have that much money. So I think [opioid plaintiffs will] have to find somebody else if they want big settlements. It won't be with us.'"

Go deeper: Lawsuit says Johnson & Johnson was opioid "kingpin"

Go deeper

Casinos throw cash at sports betting media

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Casinos are investing millions on sports betting content to lure bettors to their online and in-person sportsbooks.

Why it matters: It’s a mini gold rush for some sports media companies that were struggling in the pandemic.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
6 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Global carbon emissions rebound to pre-COVID levels

Newly released data show that global CO2 emissions had returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of last year and surpassed them in some major economies.

Why it matters: The International Energy Agency warned that clean energy efforts are falling short.

Civil rights leader and Bill Clinton adviser Vernon Jordan dies at 85

Vernon Jordan. Photo: Andy Kropa/Getty Images

Vernon Jordan, the Civil Rights Movement pioneer who served as a close adviser to former President Clinton, died on Monday evening, CNN reports. He was 85.

Why it matters: The former National Urban League president was influential in American politics — from his service in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s civil rights conference to his position in leadership at the NAACP.