Walmart Settles Opioid Lawsuits for $3.1 Billion
Walmart has announced the latest in agreements to settle massive lawsuits over the opioid epidemic. The retailer is the third largest chain pharmacy system in the U.S. and agreed to a $3.1 billion settlement to resolve lawsuits related to overprescribing of opioid medications which has led to a virtual pandemic of overdose deaths.
Walmart has denied liability but agreed to the multi-billion-dollar settlement in the wake of similar agreements by the two largest pharmacy chains, CVS, and Walgreens who each agreed to pay about $5 billion in settlements. Walmart has stated that the settlement is in the “best interest of all parties” and hopes that it will provide “significant aid” in the fight against the opioid crisis.
The $3.1 billion settlement will resolve individual lawsuits from federal and multiple state agencies, as well as Native American tribes over the next decade. The State of New York is set to receive $116 million from the Walmart settlement in addition to millions received from other settlement agreements. Other states including Texas, Ohio, California and others have participated in group lawsuits and will also receive hundreds of millions from settlement agreements.
Settlements for drug manufacturers, wholesale distributors and chain pharmacies now total nearly $60 billion. Use of the settlement dollars has yet to be finalized but experts hope that they will serve to curtail opioid deaths which have reached epidemic proportions.
Opioid Crisis Reaches Epidemic Proportions
Estimates show that more than 500,000 deaths may have been caused by OxyContin and Fentanyl in the last 20 years. Pharmacies have been accused of having failed to act to prevent improper use of prescription opioids. Though physicians write the prescriptions, pharmacies are required to monitor and evaluate patterns to prevent improper use. Wholesale drug distributors have been accused of failing to report suspicious purchasing and were named in multiple lawsuits filed by government agencies.
Recent crackdowns from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Justice and limits by doctors, have moved overdose deaths from prescription drugs to street drugs such as fentanyl and heroin. Many of those using illegal opioids became addicted to prescription opioids such as OxyContin or oxycodone, often from “pill docs”. Newer estimates indicate that within the past several years, opioid overdose deaths may be as high as 80,000 per year, from fentanyl alone.
Other Opioid Lawsuit Settlements
Other recent settlements have included $26 billion to be paid by drug manufacturers including Purdue Pharmaceuticals, Teva, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Health Solutions, Allergan, and Rochester Drug Corporation. The Purdue agreement also included removal of the Sackler family who had controlling interest in the private drug company. Drug wholesalers including McKesson Corporation, Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation, and Cardinal Health have also agreed to settlements totaling about $21 billion.
Current opioid settlements do not address any personal injury lawsuits filed by victims but were filed to help recoup damages paid for opioid treatment and pay for future programs in states and other regions.
Cited Research Article Sources
- Walmart agrees to $3.1 billion settlement over opioid lawsuits, CBS News (11/2022)
- CVS Health agrees to $5 billion settlement of opioid lawsuits, CBS News (11/2022)
- Justice Department Announces Global Resolution of Criminal and Civil Investigations with Opioid Manufacturer Purdue Pharma and Civil Settlement with Members of the Sackler Family, U.S. Department of Justice (10/2023)
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