Walmart agrees to settle opioid lawsuits for $3.1 billion

Walmart on Tuesday agreed to a $3.1 billion settlement in lawsuits that link the retail giant to the long-running opioid crisis in the United States. Earlier this month, CVS and Walgreens announced “agreements in principle,” which are expected to result in $10 billion in settlements.

The money will resolve “all opioid lawsuits and potential lawsuits brought by state, local and tribal governments, if conditions are met,” Walmart said in a statement. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the money will help pay for drug treatment and addiction education programs across the United States.

The opioid crisis has ravaged the United States for the past decade and contributed to hundreds of thousands dead of a drug overdose. About 75% of the nearly 92,000 deaths in 2020 from drug overdoses involved an opioid. Fentanyl, a drug often mixed with heroin and cocaine, is a major contributor.

The healthcare industry, along with pharmacies like Walmart, Walgreens and CVS, have come under scrutiny for the overprescription of opioids, which has led to addictions in people who initially took them for medical reasons. The invention of the painkiller OxyContin, in particular, was a catalyst for the opioid epidemic.

The US Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency following the opioid crisis in 2017.

In Walmart’s statement on the settlement, the company said it “strongly disputes the allegations in these matters, and this settlement framework does not include any admission of liability.” Walmart added that it remains committed to providing customers with access to their prescriptions while “helping address the opioid crisis facing our country.”

In a Nov. 2 statement, Walgreens said it is “committed to being part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to continue to focus on the health and well-being of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to addressing the opioid crisis.”

CVS also said in a Nov. 2 statement that “the settlement would fully resolve claims dating back a decade or more and does not constitute an admission of liability or wrongdoing. CVS Health will continue to defend itself against any litigation that the final agreement will not resolve.

Walgreens and CVS each pledged to keep naloxone, also known as Narcan, in U.S. pharmacies, and Walmart said it would do the same “where permitted by state law.” Naloxone — if given in time to someone who is overdosing on opioids, including prescription pills, heroin, or fentanyl — can reverse the overdose. Naloxone is available in all 50 states, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and carrying it is “no different” than carrying an EpiPen.

Purdue Pharma, which produced OxyContin and whose owners have settled multibillion-dollar lawsuits over the opioid crisis, could not be reached for comment. The Sackler Trust, which is owned by some of the same people who own Purdue Pharma, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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