(CTN News) – Across the US, Walmart became the latest major player in the drug industry to announce a plan to settle lawsuits filed by state and local governments over the toll of powerful prescription opioids sold at its pharmacies.
CVS Health and Walgreen Co each said they would pay about $5bn on November 2, following similar announcements from CVS Health and Walgreen Co.
In a statement, Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, denied allegations made in lawsuits filed by state and local governments that its pharmacies improperly filled prescriptions for powerful prescription painkillers. With the settlement plan, the company does not admit liability.
New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, said the company was required to comply with oversight measures, prevent fraudulent prescriptions, and flag suspicious prescriptions.
Across the country and here in New York, the opioid epidemic has ravaged communities for decades. “Pharmacies like Walmart have played an undeniable role in perpetuating opioid abuse, and my fellow attorneys general and I are holding them accountable.”
It is impossible to put a price on the lives lost and destroyed communities of New York, but with the $2.1 billion we have provided, we will continue to rebuild, recover, and strengthen our defenses against future devastation.”
Assuming the settlement is finalized, the company will pay most of it over the next year, according to lawyers representing local governments.
Deals were negotiated with a group of state attorneys general, but they are not final. A critical mass of state and local governments would have to approve CVS and Walgreens’ deals before they could be implemented. Walmart’s plan would need to be approved by 43 states. We are still in the early stages of the formal process.
Over the past two decades, more than 500,000 Americans have died in the US due to an opioid overdose epidemic that has been linked to some of the biggest drug makers and distributors.
There have been more than $50 billion worth of proposed and finalized Walmart settlements in recent years, most of which will be used by governments to combat the crisis.
Prescription drugs such as OxyContin and generic oxycodone were responsible for most opioid overdose deaths in the 2000s. People addicted to these drugs increasingly turned to heroin after governments, doctors, and companies made it difficult for them to obtain the drugs.
Over the past few years, opioid deaths have reached record levels around 80,000 per year. In most cases, these deaths are caused by illicit versions of the powerful lab-made drug fentanyl, which is widely available throughout the US illegal drug supply.
Why did Walmart change their name?
The retailer wants to be known simply as Walmart Inc., not Wal-Mart Store Inc. as it is currently legally known. The dash or the hyphen that separates the Wal from the Mart in the retailer’s legal name will disappear as part of its corporate-identity update.