AUSTIN (KXAN) — A handful of Austin-area local governments have already signed onto a multi-billion dollar legal settlement with four major drug companies over the ongoing opioid epidemic.
KXAN confirmed the cities of Georgetown, Pflugerville, Kyle, Hutto, and Buda voted this month to take part in the agreement at the urging of Attorney General Ken Paxton who announced the deal last July.
Texas could receive up to $1.5 billion of the global $26 billion settlement which includes pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson which manufactured and marketed the opioids.
Paxton said the actual amount the state could see depends on how many city and county governments get on board. 15 percent of the funding would go directly to the local governments for addiction prevention initiatives and programs, 70 percent would go to the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund through the Texas Opioid Council, and the remaining 15 percent would go to the attorney general’s office to cover legal expenses.
For now, according to the allocation term sheet, the City of Georgetown is set to receive $225,896, Pflugerville would get $86,408, Kyle $51,835, Hutto $38,346, and Buda $10,784.
Travis County (which could see $4.7 million) said it would “look at its options,” when reached for comment. The City of Austin (eligible for $4.9 million) said a decision is not required until January and that the matter is “currently under review.”
Texas cities and counties that join the settlement — which would see funding dispersed over 18 years — would give up their rights to sue the four named companies.
Drug manufacturers and distributors have come under fire and become litigation targets over the rise in opioid addictions across the country.
Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson have denied any wrongdoing and have said this settlement is not an admission of liability.
Johnson & Johnson released a statement in July reading, in part: “We recognize the opioid crisis is a tremendously complex public health issue, and we have deep sympathy for everyone affected. This settlement will directly support state and local efforts to make meaningful progress in addressing the opioid crisis in the United States.”
KXAN spoke with local addiction psychiatrist Carlos Tirado who said that do accept the settlement funds should put them toward treatment, specifically clinic services and recovery medication coverage.
“There is considerable demand for these services,” he said. “There are people who, day in and day out, are fighting to stay alive, and struggling to get into clinics that have extended waitlists and sometimes arbitrary barriers to care.”