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Pharmaceutical opioid companies pay out – but will it be enough?

Wednesday, February 9, 2022 by Seth Smalley

The Travis County Commissioners Court received a legal briefing Tuesday on County of Travis v. Purdue Pharma, a yearslong case brought by Travis County and a host of other plaintiffs against a number of manufacturers and distributors of pharmaceutical opioids, including Purdue Pharma. Last month, multiple defendants in the opioid litigation entered a number of settlement agreements with plaintiffs. One of the major outcomes of the settlement comes in the form of a large sum paid out by defendants to the state, which local governments such as Travis County can apply for.

Defendants listed Tuesday included Endo Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and various other distributors. Endo Pharmaceuticals alone is expected to pay $63 million to the state, $39 million of which will go toward an abatement fund to mitigate damage caused by the pharmaceuticals.

“Even though the payments from the settlements reflect partial compensations to Travis County for the past damages it has suffered and the future damages it is likely to incur,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown read from a resolution, reasoning that the county nevertheless chose to enter the settlement agreements. “Given the risks of litigation, the fact that this is a settlement with three groups of defendants, the fact that it is to the benefit of Texas and Travis County and its residents, and that it reduces the risks associated with protracted litigation, (Travis County decided to accept the settlement).”

The Commissioners Court unanimously adopted the resolution endorsing the three separate settlements – the Endo settlement, the Teva settlement and a distributors settlement. The county additionally released a statement explaining its position on the lawsuit, reiterating support for the settlement agreements and the need for repayment for past and future opioid-related expenditures.

“Travis County Commissioners Court understands that the purpose of each settlement is to effectuate resolution of the opioid litigation against the Endo defendants, the Teva defendants and the distributor defendants. We also understand that an additional purpose is to ensure the effective means of distributing any potential settlement funds obtained under settlements in Texas and under the jurisdiction of Texas courts in a manner and means that would promote an effective and meaningful use of the funds,” Brown said.

“Part of what we’re learning is that there’s going to be a lot of money available that we have to go apply for. And I want us to commit to finding the funds to support the staff to aggressively apply for that grant money,” Commissioner Ann Howard said. “We have to bring as much relief to this community we can on addiction. There’s a lot of people and families suffering over this and I just think we need to commit to going after that money.”

Commissioner Brigid Shea, agreeing with Howard, said that “because a very large portion of all the money that comes into the state will go into this opioid fund that local governments can apply for grant funds from, I completely agree with your sentiment on going after it aggressively.”

“We’ve got a lot of folks in the community that not only have the capacity to write grants, but the relationships to move grants because sometimes it’s not just what you write, it’s how you network what you write, so let’s really take a deep dive and bring in the right resources, whether they’re internal or external, and get the job done,” Commissioner Jeffrey Travillion said.

Editor’s Note: Andy Brown is on the board of the Capital of Texas Media Foundation, the parent nonprofit of the Austin Monitor.

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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