In addition to CVS Health and Walgreen Co. announcing agreements in principle on Wednesday to pay close to $5 billion each to settle claims across the nation regarding the harm caused by opioids, a lawyer said Walmart is in settlement talks. CVS would make the payments over ten years, and the firm is not admitting any wrongdoing.
The events add up to what may be the final round of substantial settlements following years of litigation over the drug industry’s participation in an overdose crisis linked to more than 500,000 fatalities in the U.S. over the previous 20 years.
Governments claimed that pharmacies were providing prescriptions they ought to have labeled unsuitable in the lawsuits.
According to the agreements, most of the money from Walgreens and CVS, both in Deerfield, Illinois, and Woonsocket, Rhode Island, would combat the opioid crisis.
According to the preliminary plans, CVS would give local governments $4.9 billion over ten years and around $130 million to Native American tribes. Over 15 years, Walgreens would pay $155 million to tribes and $4.8 billion to governments. How many governments sign on to the deals will determine the exact amount.
On Wednesday, CVS shared specifics of its strategy and an earnings report, while Walgreens filed an SEC document with additional information.
“We are delighted to conclude these long-standing claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as of our customers, colleagues, and shareholders,” said Thomas Moriarty, chief policy officer and general counsel at CVS, in a statement. According to the statement, “We will keep up our significant efforts to help stop the unlawful usage of prescribed opioids. We are committed to working with municipalities, cities, and tribes.
Among other steps to lessen opioid misuse, CVS has started educational campaigns and placed drug disposal units in shops and police agencies.
Neither CVS nor Walgreens is making an admission of guilt.
Calls to Walmart representatives were not immediately returned on Wednesday, but Paul Geller, an attorney representing the government in the complaints, said negotiations with the corporation are still ongoing.
These companies have agreed to significantly improve their dispensing procedures and make payments worth billions of dollars to reduce addiction. According to local government attorneys, “these agreements will be the first settlements with pharmacy chains and will empower towns around the country with the much-needed tools to fight back against this pandemic and bring about real, good change.”
With the proposed agreements, the total amount of completed and finalized settlements between businesses and governments worldwide exceeds $50 billion.
Nearly the previous 20 years, opioids have been blamed for over 500,000 deaths in the United States. Prescription medicines were initially a factor in the majority of deaths. People with opiate use disorders increasingly shifted to heroin, which proved more lethal, as governments, medical professionals, and businesses adopted measures to make it difficult to abuse and obtain them.
Opioid-related fatalities have reached historic highs in recent years, hovering around 80,000 each year. The majority of those fatalities contain fentanyl, a potent synthetic narcotic that is widely available in the U.S. illegal drug market and is created illegally in the majority of those cases.
As litigation regarding the contribution of pharmacies to the opioid problem has intensified, the settlement was announced. On Tuesday, a court supervising the opioid case received papers from 18 companies, most pharmacy-related, outlining the claims they are facing.
Only a few drug settlements have included sums more significant than the CVS proposal. This year, the distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson reached a $21 billion settlement, and the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson reached a $5 billion agreement.
The owner of the firm, members of the Sackler family, and Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, have suggested a settlement that includes up to $6 billion in cash as well as the value of the business, which would be transformed into a new organization and its earnings utilized to fight the epidemic. A court has ordered the suspension of such a scheme.