Individual states have filed lawsuits against retail drug store giants for improperly filling opioid drug prescriptions. For instance, Arkansas sued Walgreens in March, and late last week, the state of Kentucky announced it was filing a lawsuit against CVS.
Kentucky alleges in the lawsuit that the opioid epidemic has killed hundreds of people in the state, and that during the height of the epidemic, CVS pharmacists dispensed millions of doses of opioids in the state.
Kentucky’s Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, said in a news release that the dispensing of so many opioid dosage units devastated thousands of families and communities across the state.
“As both distributor and pharmacy, CVS was in a unique position to monitor and stop the peddling of these highly-addictive drugs from their stores, yet they ignored their own safeguard systems,” Cameron said in the statement.
According to a WebMD.com news brief, CVS pharmacies throughout Kentucky purchased more than 150 million doses of either oxycodone or hydrocodone between 2006 and 2014.
Just one CVS retail location in Perry County purchased nearly 7 million doses of these two opioid drugs during the same time span. This amount, AG Cameron’s release said, is “enough opioids for every man, woman, and child in the county to have over 26 pills every year during the same period.”
In response to the lawsuit, a CVS spokesperson said the company was prepared to defend itself against the allegations.
“Opioids are made and marketed by drug manufacturers, not pharmacies,” the representative told NBC News in an email, per WebMD.com reporting.
The CVS spokesperson suggested that because pharmacists fill prescriptions that are written by physicians, they are not culpable for filling the prescriptions.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Kentucky had the ninth-highest opioid death rate in the US in 2018, with over 23 deaths per 100,000 people. But the Bluegrass state was second in the nation for opioid prescription rate, with nearly 80 prescriptions filled per 100 people that same year.
West Virginia, which is embroiled in a trial against the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers, had the highest opioid death rate in 2018, with over 42 fatal overdoses per 100,000 people, while Tennessee had the highest opioid prescriptions filled (nearly 82 prescriptions per 100 people.) Like the state of Arkansas, Kentucky has also sued Walgreens because of the opioid epidemic as well as Johnson & Johnson.