CVS and Walgreens pay $10.7 billion for alleged opioid prescription lapses

CVS and Walgreens have agreed to jointly pay $10.7 billion to settle allegations that they failed to adequately monitor opioid painkiller prescriptions, contributing to America’s opioid addiction crisis.

The money will be distributed to states, local governments and federally recognized tribes and will be spent on opioid crisis response and recovery programs. CVS pays $4.9 billion to states and political subdivisions and about $130 million to tribes. Walgreens will pay $4.95 billion, plus more than $750 million in attorneys’ fees and costs. Payments will be made over time.

The pharmacy chains have also agreed to implement robust controlled substance compliance programs that require additional layers of opioid prescription assessments and establish new mandatory training programs.

Between 2011 and 2020, the overdose death rate from all opioids tripled, from 7.3 deaths per 100,000 people to 21.4 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the nonprofit State Health Access Data Assistance Center. Even as the decline in prescriptions like oxycontin has leveled off, deaths from heroin, which is illegal, and fentanyl, a widely prescribed pain reliever, have risen, the group said.

“When people can’t just stop their consumption, as in the case of addiction, they often turn to substitutes,” wrote Colin Planalp, a research associate at the center. “Unfortunately, with opioids, that led many people to seek out substances like heroin on the illicit market, whose purity and potency are unreliable, making them even riskier than prescription opioids. And once drug traffickers embraced the powerful opioid fentanyl, penetrated the illicit drug trade and became entangled in non-opioid substances, such as cocaine and methamphetamine.”

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul led the settlement effort.

“The opioid epidemic has tragically affected too many families in Illinois who have experienced addiction or even the death of a loved one,” he said in a statement. “This $10.7 billion settlement with Walgreens and CVS builds on the important progress we’ve already made with previous settlements, but more importantly, it holds both companies accountable.”

As part of the settlement, neither company admitted wrongdoing.

“We are pleased to resolve these long-standing claims and moving them forward 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, CVS Health, in a statement. release. “We are committed to working with states, municipalities and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illicit use of prescription opioids.”

“As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the country, we remain committed to being part of the solution, and this settlement framework allows us to continue to focus on the health and well-being of our customers and patients, while making a positive contribution to address the opioid crisis,” Walgreens said in a statement.

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