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Bexar County Sues Opioid Manufacturers

Joey Palacios
Texas Public Radio
Attorney Martin Phipps talks about the details of the county's lawsuit in front of the Bexar County Courthouse

Bexar County is suing several brand-name opioid manufacturers and distributors. The suit was filed in a Bexar County district court instead of on the federal level to prevent it from being consolidated with other similar cases.

The county is suing the makers and distributors of drugs like OxyContin and Percocet. It includes companies like Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson, Endo, Noramco, Cardinal Health, Mylan and Depomed.

The announcement comes a day after multiple states announced legal action against drug companies On Tuesday, the state filed its own lawsuit and counties like Harris and Travis have filed similar, separate lawsuits.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff claims the companies violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and Texas Controlled Substance Act.

“We believe the pharmaceutical companies were negligent; they engaged in fraudulent marketing practice,” he said.

Bexar County averaged 113 opioid-related deaths per year between 2008 and 2015, according to state data. Bexar County officials said about 300 children are born every year with neonatal abstinence syndrome, found in babies exposed to opiate drugs before birth.

“It’s a big burden on taxpayers now with this issue. (It has) destroyed many lives, affected many families regardless of economic income,” Wolff said.

Bexar County commissioners approved moving forward with a lawsuit in October and include a provision that any money collected from the lawsuit would be used to help treat drug abuse in the county.

“We need the money to help treat people that have addicted to legalized opioid as well as other illegal drugs,” he said.

The county is requesting a jury trial and did not list a dollar amount in damages it seeks. It’s recruited three law firms: Phipps Anderson Deacon LLP, Alexander Dubose Jefferson Townsend, and Watts Guerra LLP.

Attorney Martin Phipps said it could take about two years before the case is heard.

“We’re known as a military city,” Phipps said. “Unfortunately, we really should be called an opiate city.

“What these manufactures and distributors did is they didn’t just negligently put opioid out in the market place, what they were doing is they defrauded doctors telling them that opioids were not addictive.”

Last July, Bexar County created a Joint Opioid Taskforce with the city to combat the opioid epidemic.

Joey Palacios can be reached at joey@TPR.org or on Twitter at @joeycules

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules