Walmart announced on Nov. 15 that it will pay $3.1 billion to settle hundreds of opioid lawsuits. The framework needs to be approved by 43 states, and would resolve all opioid lawsuits filed by state, local and tribal governments. The announcement follows two similar deals reached by pharmacy giants earlier this month. CVS and Walgreens both agreed on Nov. 2 to pay $5 billion each to resolve opioid litigation.
The lawsuits against Walmart, CVS and Walgreens allege that the pharmacies did not control the amount of opioid prescriptions that were illegally or dubiously filled, thus contributing to the opioid epidemic which has claimed more than 500,000 lives in the last two decades in the U.S. In the last few years, opioid overdose deaths have reached their highest levels at approximately 80,000 per year. After opioid lawsuits were filed against pharmacies, tighter oversight has caused most people hooked on opioids to use illicit opioid drugs such as heroin.
Some government lawyers stated that in comparison to Walgreens and CVS, Walmart acted more responsibly when it came to policing the fulfilment of opioid prescriptions. Doug Peterson, Nebraska’s Attorney General, said in a statement that Walmart “filled significantly fewer prescriptions for opioids then CVS or Walgreens, [and] since 2018, Walmart has been the most proactive in trying to monitor and control prescription opioid diversion attempted through its pharmacies.”
As part of the settlement proposal, Walmart will not have to admit liability or wrongdoing.
“Walmart believes the settlement framework is in the best interest of all parties and will provide significant aid to communities across the country in the fight against the opioid crisis, with aid reaching state and local governments faster than any other nationwide opioid settlement to date,” the company said in a statement.
More than $50 billion in opioid settlement money has been proposed. It’s not yet clear exactly how those funds will be used, but considering that most opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies have attempted to settle the lawsuits, it appears the end of the massive litigation is near.