US: Walgreens reaches $683m opioid settlement with Florida

Pharmacy chains have increasingly been targeted for allegedly lax oversight states say spurred high rates of addiction.

Walgreens store front
Walgreens has reached a settlement with the state of Florida over its role in the state's opioid crisis [Associated Press]

Walgreens Boots Alliance, which owns a string of retail pharmacies, has reached a $683m settlement with Florida to resolve claims it exacerbated an opioid epidemic in the state.

The settlement ends a trial that began last month, after Walgreens decided not to join a combined $878m settlement in the state with four other healthcare companies.

To date, Florida has recovered more than $3bn in opioid litigation against drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies, according to Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

It will spend most of the money on efforts to mitigate the opioid crisis in the state.

“I am glad that we have been able to end this monumental litigation and move past the courtroom,” Moody said at a Thursday press conference.

The most recent settlement includes $620m to be paid to Florida over 18 years, plus $63m for legal fees.

Walgreens did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which stems from allegations the company played down the risks of addiction and overdoses, and were lax in monitoring where pills ended up.

The case hinged on accusations that as Walgreens dispensed more than 4.3 billion opioid pills in Florida from May 2006 to June 2021, more than half of the prescriptions contained one or more easily recognised red flags for abuse, fraud and addiction that the company should have noticed and acted upon.

Prior to settling, Walgreens had argued it should be immune from being sued based on a $3,000 settlement it reached with Florida in 2012.

Florida had called Walgreens’ position “absurd”, according to court transcripts, saying the 2012 settlement addressed only a single record-keeping violation.

CVS Health Corp previously agreed to settle with Florida for $484m, while Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Abbvie Inc’s Allergan unit and Endo International Plc agreed to pay a respective $194.8m, $134.2m and $65m.

All denied wrongdoing.

The nationwide opioid crisis has led to more than 500,000 overdose deaths in the last two decades, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed against those allegedly responsible for the crisis.

While many initially targeted drugmakers and distributors, states have also increasingly targeted pharmacies.

In November of last year, a jury in a federal trial in Ohio found Walmart, CVS Health Corp, and Walgreens Boots Alliance guilty of spurring the crisis by failing to properly monitor opioid prescriptions.

On Tuesday Washington state reached a $518m settlement with opioid distributors McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Health, ending a months-long trial in those companies’ alleged role in the opioid crisis.

Source: News Agencies