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Drug distributors, J&J reach $26 billion opioids settlement

The three dominant prescription drug distributors — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — and Johnson & Johnson have agreed to pay a combined amount of $26 billion settle allegations that they fueled the country's opioid crisis.

Why it matters: The companies, which have admitted no wrongdoing, are paying a sum of money that equates to 4% of their combined annual revenue. Meanwhile, a record 70,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses during the pandemic in 2020.

By the numbers: The $26 billion settlement, announced by a group of state attorneys general, varies by company and will be paid out over time.

  • J&J: $5 billion over nine years
  • AmerisourceBergen: $6.4 billion over 18 years
  • Cardinal Health: $6.4 billion over 18 years
  • McKesson: $7.9 billion over 18 years
  • Each of the three drug distributors have already set aside funds in anticipation of a settlement.

The big picture: All states, except for West Virginia, and local governments will now have a chance to sign on to the settlement.

  • "The substantial majority of the money is to be spent on opioid treatment and prevention," the state AGs said.

What they're saying: "Distributors can easily bear this burden," analysts at stock market firm Baird wrote this week. "We think [Wall] Street is more than ready for substantial resolution, even if not all-encompassing ... We haven't popped the champagne yet, but the bottle is definitely chilling."

Flashback: In 2018, executives at AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson told Congress they did not think their companies contributed to the opioid crisis.

What to watch: Settlements have still not been finalized with Purdue Pharma, other opioids manufacturers like Teva and pharmacies, although Purdue is working on a settlement through bankruptcy. Native American tribes also are pursuing legal action.

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Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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