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11/02/2022

CVS, Walgreens Tentatively Agree to Settle Opioid Cases for $10B

Large majority of state, local and tribal governments must sign on for it to take effect
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Finalization of the tentative opioid cases settlement agreements reached by CVS and Walgreens depends on most plaintiffs, among them state, municipal and tribal governments, signing on.

CVS and Walgreens have reached tentative agreements to pay about $5 billion each to settle thousands of lawsuits over their actions during the opioid epidemic, according to published reports, citing government filings.

As The New York Times reported, however, finalization of the agreements depends on most plaintiffs, among them state, municipal and tribal governments, signing on. Many large manufacturers of prescription opioids and the three major drug distribution companies have already settled. 

This past August, a  federal judge ordered CVS, Walgreens and Walmart to pay $650 million to two Ohio counties, to help defray ongoing costs relating to the opioid crisis. The companies had settled earlier in cases brought in Florida and West Virginia, and by two New York counties. 

Citing a “person familiar with the negotiations,” The Times reported that Walmart had agreed to pay $3.1 billion in settlement negotiations, but the company declined to comment on the matter.

According to both CVS and Walgreens, the agreements are not an admission of wrongdoing on their part.

Over the next 10 years, CVS would pay $4.9 billion to states and municipal governments and about $130 million to tribes under the agreement.

“We are pleased to resolve these longstanding claims, and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” noted Thomas Moriarty, the chief policy officer and general counsel for CVS Health in the Times. “We are committed to working with states, municipalities and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegitimate use of prescription opioids.”

According to its filing, Walgreens would pay $4.79 billion over 15 years to the states and $154.5 million to the tribes, as well as paying $753.5 million in lawyers’ fees and costs, over six years.

“This settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and well-being of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis,” Walgreens said in a statement supplied to the Times.

Walgreens’ move doesn’t resolve the second phase of a trial now occurring in San Francisco federal court to determine the amount the company must pay to the city and county to abate the cost of the ongoing opioid epidemic, or a recently ended trial before a New Mexico state judge, who hasn’t issued a decision yet.

“We encourage all states, subdivisions and Native American tribes to join us once these agreements and allocation processes are finalized to expedite the process of providing these lifesaving resources where they are needed most,” noted a statement from lawyers negotiating on behalf of cities and counties across the country.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens, which operates nearly 9,000 retail locations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, is No. 5 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. With its CVS Pharmacy subsidiary operating almost 10,000 locations nationwide, Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS Health is No. 7 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on The PG 100.

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