The Kilgore City Council approved a resolution Tuesday evening to apply for a share, potentially worth more than $100,000, from a multi-billion dollar settlement reached between the Texas Attorney General’s office and the manufacturers and distributors of highly addictive drugs which have fueled an opioid epidemic in Texas and across the nation.
According to a report from Texas Tribune, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced in July that Texas, along with other states, had joined a $26 billion settlement with drug distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen and drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. The agreement could mean Texas will receive more than $1 billion from the settlement, though the final amount will depend on how many local governments join in the settlement by the Jan. 2 deadline.
Resolution 21-16, unanimously approved by Kilgore City Council, states “On May 13, 2020, the State of Texas, through the Office of the Attorney General, and a negotiation group for Texas political subdivisions entered into an Agreement entitled Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council and Settlement Allocation Term Sheet approving the allocation of any and all opioid settlement funds within the State of Texas.”
Opioids are a class of medication used for their pain-relieving, morphine-like effects and include drugs like OxyCodone, Fentanyl and Vicodin. These medications are also highly addictive and have a high potential for misuse and abuse.
The settlement funds are intended to be used for opioid abatement programs and opioid addiction treatment in the many communities affected by the opioid crisis.
City Manager Josh Selleck explained some details of the settlement to council.
“By way of the Attorney General’s office, we are party to a suit, really a settlement, that they’ve made with a number of drug makers and we’ve been asked to make a decision on whether or not we want to take part in the settlement,” he said.
“Some cities are holding out and not opting in yet and I’m not 100 percent sure on what their rationale is, but I wanted to share our rationale for opting in. The Attorney General’s office, on our behalf, knowing that we have been harmed by the impacts of opioid abuse, have gotten to a settlement. This is a great thing. It’s around $100,000 to $105,000 for the City of Kilgore.”
According to the Tribune report, the drug distributors are accused in hundreds of lawsuits of “turning a blind eye while pharmacies across the country ordered millions of pills for people over the last two decades.” Johnson & Johnson is accused of downplaying the addictive properties of its opioid products to doctors as well as patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year, opioid overdose deaths hit a record high of more than 93,000. From 1999 to 2019, nearly half a million people died from overdoses involving opioids, including prescription drugs and illegal street opioids. All four companies participating in the settlement have denied wrongdoing.
As part of the settlement, state and local governments which accept settlement funds must agree not to file additional suits against the named drug distributors and manufacturers to seek additional damages.
“This isn’t money that we would ever be able to, on our own, go after,” Selleck said.
“The cost of legal fees alone is in vast excess of this and we would never really stand a chance. Without combining efforts with other government entities, we would never have an opportunity to see these funds. There are some cities that are saying, ‘We want to hold out, we don’t think this is enough.’ This may not be enough to cover the costs of what the opioid crisis has done in Kilgore, but if we don’t opt into this, no one else is going out on our behalf trying to recover these funds. There isn’t a better partner for something like this than the Attorney General of Texas’s office. They’ve gone out, they’ve gotten the settlement, so it’s our recommendation, because we don’t anticipate ever seeing money from any other source similar to this, that we go ahead and accept and take part in the settlement.”
The report states the three distributors would pay up to $1.17 billion to the state and the localities that opt in to the agreement over 18 years. Johnson & Johnson would pay up to $268 million over nine years.