By Belle Carter
CVS Health Corp, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Walmart Inc. agreed to pay a combined $13.8 billion to resolve lawsuits accusing the companies of funneling billions of pills of dangerous opioid pharmaceuticals into nearly every community across the country.
Reuters reported that CVS on Wednesday said it will pay about $5 billion over 10 years while Walgreens said it had agreed to pay about $5.7 billion over 15 years. However, both pharma chains did not admit to having contributed to the opioid crisis. Walmart has agreed to pay $3.1 billion, mostly upfront.
“We know that reckless, profit-driven dispensing practices fueled the crisis. But we know just as surely that with better systems in place and proper heeding of red flag warnings, pharmacies can play a direct role in reducing opioid abuse and in saving lives,” Paul Geller, one of the lawyers who negotiated for the governments, said, pointing out that this will bring billions of additional funding to affected communities to combat the epidemic of opioid addiction.
In over 3,300 lawsuits since 2017, state, local and Native American tribal governments accused Big Pharma companies of downplaying the risks of their opioid pain medicines, while pharmacies ignored the warnings that prescriptions were being diverted into illegal trafficking.
Thomas Moriarty, CVS general counsel, said the firm was pleased to resolve the claims and the deal was “in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders.”
In a release, Walgreens said being one of the largest pharmacy chains in the U.S., they remain committed to being a part of the solution and the settlement framework will allow them to focus on the health and wellbeing of their customers, “while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis.”
Both chains said their agreements “would not be final until certain non-monetary terms were worked out and that the total amount could be reduced if not enough government plaintiffs sign on.”
Walmart, meanwhile, did not respond to a request for comment.
In August, a $650.6 million judgment was made in favor of two Ohio counties against the three pharmaceutical operators. The order came after a jury last November concluded that the three helped create a public nuisance in Lake and Trumbull counties by over-supplying the pain pills. Many of these drugs even landed on the black market. (Related: Walgreens “substantially contributed” to opioid crisis, judge rules.)
According to authorities, the money from the settlements will be used to fight the opioid pandemic, which has caused nearly 650,000 overdose deaths since 1999.
Congressional report: Economic toll of opioid crisis estimated at $1.5 trillion in 2020 alone
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said much of the recent rise in the cases is attributed to the illegally manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. The agency also noted that opioid overdose cases have surged mainly due to the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. A recent congressional report revealed that the economic toll of the opioid crisis in 2020 alone has been estimated at $1.5 trillion.
As per the CDC, opioid-related deaths soared during the pandemic, including from the powerful synthetic painkiller fentanyl, which accounted for 75 percent of the 107,000 drug overdose fatalities in 2021.
“It’s equivalent to one 737 jet every day going down, no survivors. It’s a mind-boggling number of deaths,” said Rep. David Trone, who sits on the Congressional Joint Economic Committee (JEC) that issued the report.
Trone added that JEC is valuing all the various losses that happens with addiction. “There’s loss of productivity, folks in the job force, all the medical health costs, just a huge number of costs,” he said, adding that the surge in fatal opioid overdose cases in 2021 shows that the total cost is likely to continue to increase.
On September 24, President Joe Biden announced awarding the $1.5 billion fund to access medications for overdoses, sanctions against traffickers and increased funding for law enforcement.
Visit Opioids.news for more news related to the damage caused by the opioids epidemic across the United States.
Watch the below video that talks about the opioid crisis, its effects and the toxicity treatment.
This video is from the Finding Genius Podcast channel on Brighteon.com.