Another Big Pharma Chain Is About to Fork Over Billions

Walmart agrees to $3.1B settlement with states, tribes regarding opioid crisis
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 2, 2022 12:42 PM CDT
Updated Nov 16, 2022 6:44 AM CST
CVS, Walgreens to Pay $5B Each in Opioid Settlements
A sign outside a Walgreens Pharmacy in Pittsburgh.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
UPDATE Nov 16, 2022 6:44 AM CST

Walmart has joined two other big pharmacy chains in opening its wallet wide to help fix the opioid epidemic that many say they helped cause. The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart has agreed to fork over $3.1 billion to settle lawsuits from multiple states, municipalities, and Native American tribes for its role in the drug crisis. "Walmart believes the settlement framework is in the best interest of all parties and will provide significant aid to communities across the country," the company says in a release, though it adds that the settlement doesn't mean it's admitting to any liability in the matter. CVS and Walgreens, which reached similar settlements for about $5 billion each and also refused to admit wrongdoing, are paying theirs out over 10 years and 15 years, respectively. Walmart's settlement, in contrast, is set to be paid out almost immediately.

Nov 2, 2022 12:42 PM CDT

The two largest US pharmacy chains, CVS Health and Walgreen Co., announced agreements in principle Wednesday to pay about $5 billion each to settle lawsuits nationwide over the toll of opioids, and a lawyer said Walmart, a third pharmacy behemoth, is in discussions for a deal. The deals, if completed, would end thousands of lawsuits in which governments claimed pharmacies filled prescriptions they should have flagged as inappropriate. With settlements already proposed or finalized between some of the biggest drugmakers and distribution companies, the recent developments could be the among the last multibillion-dollar settlements to be announced, the AP reports. Neither CVS nor Walgreens is admitting wrongdoing.

They also would bring the total value of all settlements to more than $50 billion, with most of it required to be used by state and local governments to combat opioids, which have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the US over the last two decades. "It's one more culprit of the overdose crisis that is having to pay their dues," said Courtney Gary-Allen, organizing director of the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project. "Average Americans have been paying it for a long time." Gary-Allen, who is a member of a council that will help determine how Maine uses its opioid settlement funds, said more money to address the problem will help. In her state, she said, the needs include more beds for medical detox and for treatment.

Under the tentative plans, CVS would pay $4.9 billion to local governments and about $130 million to Native American tribes over a decade. Walgreens would pay $4.8 billion to governments and $155 million to tribes over 15 years. The exact amount depends on how many governments join the deals. Paul Geller, a lawyer for governments in the lawsuits, said talks with Walmart continue. Sources tell Reuters Walmart has agreed to pay around $3 billion. If these settlements are completed, they would leave mostly smaller drug industry players as defendants in lawsuits. "One by one, we are holding every player in the addiction industry accountable for the millions of lives lost or devastated by the opioid epidemic," Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement.

(Read more opioids stories.)

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