Government & Politics  February 7, 2024

Larimer mulls legal strategy vs. bankrupt biopharma

FORT COLLINS — The Larimer County Board of Commissioners met in executive session with its legal advisers on Tuesday to discuss the status of its litigation against a biopharmaceutical firm that has declared bankruptcy.

Larimer County in 2019 joined 16 other Colorado government entities in suing several major makers and distributors of prescription painkillers, including Purdue Pharma, Janssen, Teva, Cephalon, Allergan, Actavis, Mallinckrodt and McKesson over their alleged role in the nation’s opioid epidemic. Most of the companies have settled, deputy county attorney David Ayraud told BizWest, but Endo International filed for bankruptcy in August 2022 after reaching a $6 billion deal with some of its creditors as it sought to settle thousands of lawsuits over its alleged role in the epidemic.

“This is part of their proposed plan to reorganize,” Ayraud said. “It’s taking longer because they filed.”

No action was taken on Tuesday by the county commissioners, he said.

Larimer County had joined the city and county of Broomfield, the city and county of Denver, the cities of Aurora, Black Hawk, Commerce City, Northglenn and Westminster and the counties of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Fremont, Jefferson and Teller in the lawsuit. The town of Hudson and the Tri-County Health Department also joined the litigation.

The suits alleged that the drugmakers aggressively marketed opioids and falsely told doctors the risk of addiction to prescription opioids was very low.

More than 10,000 Colorado residents died from drug overdoses between 2000 and 2015, and the lawsuit quoted figures from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment which found that opioid-related overdoses tripled in Colorado during that period.

Huerfano County became the first governmental entity in Colorado to sue opioid manufacturers in February 2018.

In November, a group of Endo International’s lenders proposed paying up to $465 million to settle claims by the U.S. government that have held up the drug company’s bankruptcy restructuring. According to a Reuters report, the lender group, which includes investment firms Oaktree Capital Management, Silver Point Capital and Bain Capital, offered to buy Endo in exchange for wiping out $6 billion in company debt, but objections from the Department of Justice blocked the sale from moving forward.

Endo filed for bankruptcy in August 2022 in the Southern District of New York, seeking to address its debt load and settle thousands of lawsuits over allegations of its role in the opioid epidemic. As part of the bankruptcy filing, Endo committed to pay $465 million to U.S. states, $119.7 million to people affected by opioid addiction and $11.5 million to a trust for future opioid claimants.

The Larimer County Board of Commissioners met in executive session with its legal advisers on Tuesday to discuss the status of its litigation against a biopharmaceutical firm that has declared bankruptcy.

Dallas Heltzell
With BizWest since 2012 and in Colorado since 1979, Dallas worked at the Longmont Times-Call, Colorado Springs Gazette, Denver Post and Public News Service. A Missouri native and Mizzou School of Journalism grad, Dallas started as a sports writer and outdoor columnist at the St. Charles (Mo.) Banner-News, then went to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch before fleeing the heat and humidity for the Rockies. He especially loves covering our mountain communities.
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