Texas and some of its largest counties will receive $1.17 billion in opioid relief money as part of a nationwide settlement from three large pharmaceutical distribution companies, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced on Wednesday.
The money comes from a $26 billion settlement signed by 52 American states and territories that Texas joined in July. Paxton has pushed for cities and counties to join the settlement with three pharmaceutical companies — McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen — that have been accused of exacerbating the opioid crisis by overlooking the number of opioid pills that pharmacies ordered in the past two decades.
Texas and entities in the settlement will receive the money, which will principally go toward opioid overdose treatment, prevention and education, over the next 18 years. The agreement also includes a system that would track and report drug shipments across distributors.
“The companies were sued for their role in creating and fueling the nationwide opioid epidemic,” Paxton said at a media event at LifePath Systems, a McKinney-based nonprofit that has increasingly spent funds on combating fallout from the opioid crisis. “The opioid crisis throughout the nation and the state of Texas is staggering.”
The three pharmaceutical companies, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment, have denied wrongdoing in past statements.
“While the companies strongly dispute the allegations made in these lawsuits, they believe the proposed settlement agreement and settlement process it establishes … are important steps toward achieving broad resolution of governmental opioid claims and delivering meaningful relief to communities across the United States,” the companies said in a statement after the July agreement was announced.
Nearly half a million people died from overdoses involving opioids from 1999 to 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So far, Texas has secured more than $1.8 billion in opioid relief money from various pharmaceutical companies, including $225 million from Teva Pharmaceutical Industries last week. In October, Paxton announced a $290 million settlement with pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson for its use of what the state called deceptive marketing tactics that helped contribute to the crisis.
To enter the $26 billion settlement, a county or city had to join the agreement by Jan. 26 and surrender its ability to individually sue the companies. About 90% of the local governments nationwide that were eligible to participate in the agreement entered it. The amount of overall money that Texas received depended on how many local entities joined the agreement. Paxton encouraged cities and counties to join.
Paxton said his office worked extensively with county judges from Collin, Dallas, Bexar, Harris and Tarrant counties and attorneys general from states including California, Florida, Massachusetts and New York.
Officials from Bexar, Dallas and Harris counties lauded the settlement, in prepared statements, as a path to address the impact of the opioid crisis within their communities, pointing toward the larger $1.8 billion number that Texas has secured overall and also $75 million worth of Narcan, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses when administered quickly.
“This is another step in holding companies accountable for their role in the opioid crisis,” Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee said in a statement. “Too many communities have dealt with incredible losses, and this settlement helps move us toward recovery.”
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.