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Expand chart
Data: Money.net; Chart: Axios Visuals

The stock prices of AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson plummeted yesterday after Bloomberg reported the drug distributors made an opening offer of $10 billion to settle their portion of the national opioids lawsuit.

Between the lines: That figure was a lot higher than Wall Street had expected for those companies, indicating that other defendants — including opioid manufacturers — likely would pay tens of billions of dollars to avoid going to trial.

The intrigue: The investment bank Barclays held an investor lunch in June to size up how much drug distributors could pay to settle allegations they were negligent in the shipping and monitoring of potent painkillers — allegations that have since been tied to newly released federal data.

  • A legal expert at the lunch pegged the drug wholesalers' liabilities between $1 billion and $2 billion, far below their reported initial offer and the $45 billion counter-offer from states.
  • "This may be just the starting point for negotiations, which suggests the actual liability could be higher," Barclays analysts warned Tuesday.

The bottom line: Millions of people have suffered from the opioid epidemic, and the litigation is so complex that a deal is far from certain. But the early numbers show that while a settlement would not bankrupt the major drug distributors, it's not an immaterial amount either.

  • "Even if paid out over multiple decades, it's a potentially meaningful drag," analysts at Robert W. Baird & Co. wrote.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
25 mins ago - Economy & Business

2021's expected earnings blowout begins

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. Photo: Mark Kauzlarich/Bloomberg via Getty Images

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

25 mins ago - Science

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

Ingenuity on the surface of Mars, filmed by NASA's Perseverance rover. Photo: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hopping the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Healthcare workers getting COVID-19 vaccines on Dec. 16, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

All 50 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meeting President Biden's April 19 deadline.

Why it matters: The landmark speaks to the increased pace of the national vaccination campaign, but will increase pressure on the federal government, states and pharmaceutical companies to provide adequate vaccine supply and logistics.