CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart settle opioid claims in multi-billion resolution

The three pharmacy chains have agreed to pay state, political subdivisions and Native American tribes to resolve cases against them relating to the opioid epidemic in the US.

For CVS Health and Walgreens, this will lead to them paying settlements in the region of $5bn (€5.13bn) and $4.95bn (€5.08bn), respectively. Walmart is reported​ to have agreed to pay $3.1bn, which will be paid mostly upfront.

CVS stated that it would begin making the payments in 2023, and they would continue for the next ten years. Walgreens will pay over the course of 15 years.

The agreement of a financial resolution would resolve the majority of opioid lawsuits and claims against the companies dating back a decade or more. Both CVS and Walgreens outlined that the payments do not include an admission of wrongdoing or liability by the company.

According to both companies, the financial agreement is still dependent on certain conditions and non-monetary terms that are yet to be finalized.

“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, CVS Health.

The aftermath

The cases relate to the substantial rise in access to prescription opioids by patients, which led to what the US Centers for Disease Control refers to as three waves of opioid overdose deaths​. The first began with an increased incidence in overdose from opioids, followed by a subsequent rise in deaths from heroin and then a third wave of overdoses from synthetic opioids.

As a result of the opioid crisis, there has been a marked shift in focus on the development of opioids, with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proving cautiously to approve further opioid-based treatments​. Work across the industry is increasingly focused on the search for opioid alternatives that are able to provide pain relief without being addiction and the associated dangers.

In their respective statements, CVS and Walgreens highlighted the action that they have individually taken to respond to the opioid crisis.

Such actions include educational programs on prescription drug misuses directly to teenagers and parents, as well as medication disposal units, and providing access to opioid overdose reversal treatment, such as naloxone.


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