Walgreens and CVS Health have agreed to pay approximately $10 billion as part of settling nationwide opioid suits brought by states, local governments and tribes over the retailers’ alleged mishandling of painkiller prescriptions. CVS has agreed to pay approximately $4.9 billion to states and political subdivisions and approximately $130 million to tribes over 10 years beginning in 2023, while Walgreens expects to settle all opioid claims against it by states, subdivisions and tribes for up to approximately $4.95 billion over 15 years.
“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,” said Walgreens in a statement. “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.”
Both retailers have stated that the settlements are not admissions of liability or wrongdoing. They also pointed to actions they have been taking to help curb the opiate crisis, including:
- Rolling out medication disposal units to stores;
- Implementing time delay safes;
- Rolling out educational programs regarding safe prescription drug use;
- Providing access to opioid overdose reversal medication at their pharmacies; and
- Adding technology to help pharmacists ensure they are filling prescriptions for legitimate medical purposes.
CVS Health’s efforts also include rolling out medication disposal units to police departments nationwide. The retailer already has collected more than 4.5 million pounds of unused medication across all of its disposal units.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
States and municipalities have filed more than 3,000 lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies, according to CNN. The opioid crisis has led to more than 500,000 overdose deaths over the past two decades, including more than 80,000 in 2021 alone.