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Retailers reach agreements resolving opioid-related litigation

Walgreens and CVS Health separately announced agreements intended to resolve opioid-related litigation, while outlining initiatives taken to respond to the opioid crisis.

Walgreens and CVS Health announced that they have agreed to pay about $13.8 billion to resolve thousands of U.S. state, local and tribal government lawsuits accusing the pharmacy chains of mishandling opioid painkillers.

Walmart did not issue a statement, but reportedly has tentatively agreed to pay $3 billion to resolve the municipalities’ suits, according to a Bloomberg report.

Walgreens said it has agreed in principle to financial amounts and payment terms as part of settlement frameworks to substantially resolve opioid-related litigation.

Under these frameworks, the company expects to settle all opioid claims against it by participating states, subdivisions and tribes, for up to approximately $4.95 billion in remediation payments to be paid out over 15 years. The settlement frameworks include no admission of wrongdoing or liability by the company.

“As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation, we remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and wellbeing of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis. We believe this is in the best interest of the company and our stakeholders at this time, and allows our pharmacists, dedicated healthcare professionals who live and work in the communities they serve, to continue playing a critical role in providing education and resources to help combat opioid misuse and abuse,” Walgreens said, in a statement.

[Read more: Walgreens, Alto US to take action in reducing theft, organized retail crime]

Walgreens also noted that it has taken a number of actions over many years to respond to the opioid crisis, while continuing to serve patients, including:

  • Providing ongoing patient education on safe opioid use;
  • Making life-saving Naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal medication, available in all Walgreens pharmacies nationwide (nearly 9,000 stores total);
  • Providing safe and convenient medication disposal options at all Walgreens locations, including in-store kiosks at more than 1,400 stores;
  • Implementing time delay safes in nearly all Walgreens locations across the United States and Puerto Rico to help combat theft and drug diversion; and
  • Deploying technology to help pharmacists ensure they are dispensing prescriptions written for a legitimate medical purpose.

CVS Health announced today that it has agreed in principle to a financial resolution designed to substantially resolve all opioid lawsuits and claims against the company by states, political subdivisions, such as counties and cities, and tribes in the United States.

[Read more: CVS Health adds time-delay safes, disposal kiosks in Massachusetts]

If all conditions are satisfied and the non-monetary terms – which still need to be determined – are finalized, CVS Health has agreed it will pay approximately $5 billion ($4.9 billion to states and political subdivisions and approximately $130 million to tribes) over the next ten years beginning in 2023, depending on the number of governmental entities that agree to join the settlement.

CVS Health said that the agreement would fully resolve claims dating back a decade or more and is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing. CVS Health will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.

“We are pleased to resolve these longstanding claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” said Thomas Moriarty, chief policy officer and general counsel at CVS Health. “We are committed to working with states, municipalities and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegitimate use of prescription opioids.”

CVS Health said that it has undertaken numerous initiatives to fight opioid abuse, which include:

  • Significant investments in technology and procedures to support its pharmacists in exercising their professional obligations;
  • Innovative, comprehensive, and industry-leading policies, procedures and controls relating to the dispensing of controlled substances;
  • Effective educational programs on prescription drug misuse that have reached 1.8 million teens and parents;
  • Rollout of more than 4,750 safe medication disposal units in stores and local police departments across the country, which to date have collected more than 4.5 million pounds of unused medication;
  • Installation of time delay safes in more than 7,650 pharmacies across 45 states and Washington, D.C. to help deter opioid robberies; and
  • Nationwide access in CVS Pharmacy locations to life-saving opioid overdose reversal medication.


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