US state sues Walgreens, citing its role in opioid crisis


walgreens

Kentucky is suing the country’s second-largest pharmacy chain, for allegedly failing to monitor its shipping and dispensing of large amounts of opioids

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has filed suit against Walgreens for its “dual role” as distributor and pharmacy in allegedly failing to legally monitor its own operations that shipped and dispensed large quantities of opioids through its more than 70 locations statewide.

Mr Beshear’s lawsuit alleges that Walgreens, whose 2018 second-quarter sales topped $33 billion, failed to use its unique position as a pharmacy and distributor to prevent the flood of opioids into Kentucky.

The lawsuit, filed in Boone Circuit Court, also alleges unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices by Walgreens for excessively distributing and dispensing “millions of doses of highly addictive controlled painkillers” in Kentucky, and for failing to legally report to state and federal authorities the suspiciously large orders it received for prescription opioids. 

“This man-made public-health crisis of improper distribution, improper dispensing, misuse, and abuse of opioids has impacted the United States in the whole, and particularly devastated Kentucky,” reads the lawsuit.

“Opioid distributors, specifically including Walgreens, are required to establish expected order thresholds for each pharmacy that orders opioids. By nature of its dual role as both a retail pharmacy and distributor, Walgreens was required to set thresholds for its own pharmacy stores.”

Mr Beshear alleged that the company’s actions had “flooded Kentucky communities with dangerous prescription drugs, directly contributing to the state’s drug epidemic”.

More than 1,400 people died from drug overdose in Kentucky in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

And according to the CDC, around 66% of the more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in 2016 across the United States involved an opioid.

Walgreens, the second-largest pharmacy company in the US behind CVS Health, has declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Since taking office, Mr Beshear has reportedly been working towards stemming the drug epidemic, and has been taking action “to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable”.

The Walgreens suit is the sixth opioid-related lawsuit he has filed.

“As Attorney General, my job is to hold accountable anyone who harms our families,” Mr Beshear said.

“While the pain of addiction and loss of a loved one may never heal, I want to make sure these billion dollar companies take responsibility and become a part of the solution.”

In May, Florida filed an action against several opioid manufacturers, as did Delaware in January.

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