Arkansas Attorney General, Leslie Rutledge, filed a lawsuit against Walgreens today for its role in allegedly fueling the opioid epidemic, KARK, an NBC news affiliate, reported.
Rutledge said that Arkansans has been disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis and “Walgreens failed in its responsibility to report suspicious orders of prescription opioids and ignored red flags about prescriptions dispensed at its Arkansas stores.”
The complaint says, “Numerous cases and administrative decisions have confirmed that pharmacies are obligated not to fill prescriptions until all red flags of diversion are resolved.”
Although the lawsuit “won’t be able to right all of the wrongs that have been done,” said AG Rutledge, it may offer some of the affected families and communities that have been devastated by the opioid epidemic.
Rutledge added, “Companies like Walgreens should not be allowed to put corporate profits over the health and safety of Arkansans.” Rutledge pointed out that 66 out of the 75 counties in Arkansas have overall opioid prescribing rates higher than the national average.
Adding fuel to the fire, the COVID-19 pandemic has further increased the high rates of opioid prescriptions, Rutledge said.
“Walgreens has contributed substantially to the opioid crisis by selling, distributing, and dispensing far greater quantities of prescription opioids than it knows could be necessary for legitimate medical uses, while failing to report, and to take steps to halt, suspicious orders when they were identified, thereby exacerbating the oversupply of such drugs and fueling an illegal secondary market,” the complaint reads.
According to KARK, the complaint seeks an injunction to force Walgreens to follow federal and state laws. The state is also seeking damages and civil penalties on each violation of Arkansas’s consumer protection laws.
Walgreens is the fourth company Rutledge has filed a claim against in relation to the opioid crisis. Previously, Rutledge sued Johsnon & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and Endo.
Arkansas’ neighbor to the west, Oklahoma, is seeking $9 billion in opioid crisis compensation from Johnson & Johnson. In 2017, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers. That same year, over 17,000 people nationwide died from prescription opioid overdoses.