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Walgreens settles Philadelphia opioid suit for $110M

Supermarket News - 4/30/2024

Walgreens has agreed to pay $110 million to the city of Philadelphia to settle claims that the retailer was negligent in its distribution of opioid pain medications.

The settlement follows several similar agreements that the company and other pharmacy retailers, distributors and manufacturers have reached during the past several years with other city and state jurisdictions, which allege that the industry helped fuel an epidemic of opioid abuse by failing to adequately monitor opioid prescriptions.

Philadelphia’s lawsuit, filed in 2021, alleged that Walgreens violated the law by failing to monitor, report, and abstain from shipping allegedly suspicious orders of opioid pain medications, and by dispensing opioid medications without confirming that those prescriptions were for a legitimate purpose.

Walgreens denied any wrongdoing, and both parties said they agreed to the settlement to avoid the expense, delay, and uncertainty of litigation.

“We remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement will allow us to keep our focus on the health and wellbeing of our customers and patients in the community, while making positive contributions to address the opioid epidemic,” Fraser Engerman, a Walgreens spokesperson, told SN .

The settlement is to be paid in five annual installments beginning in September and continuing through 2028. 

“Through this settlement, the City of Philadelphia has successfully held Walgreens accountable for oversupplying powerful drugs to people in our communities — with little consideration for the risk of addiction or harm posed by opioids,” said Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle L. Parker . “The $110 million in funds from this settlement will support our Kensington Community Revitalization Plan and other efforts across Philadelphia to reinforce public health and safety in neighborhoods that have been hit the hardest by the opioid crisis.”

In 2022, Walgreens agreed to settle all opioid claims against it for up to approximately $5.7 billion, to be paid out over 15 years, as part of a national settlement framework. CVS agreed to a similar settlement, to be paid over a 10-year span. Walmart also agreed to a $3.1 billion settlement with all 50 states.

The chains also agreed to implement changes in how they handle opioids and monitor suspicious activity around their use.

Last year, Walgreens agreed to settle an opioid suit with the city of San Francisco for $230 million, to be paid over a 14-year period. It also finalized settlements with several individual states, including Nevada ($285 million), Texas ($340 million), New Mexico ($500 million), and Michigan ($338 million).

From 1999-2021, nearly 645,000 people died from opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 9.3 million Americans abused prescription pain relievers in 2020, more than 10 times the estimated number of heroin users.