By: April Carson
On Wednesday, the 2 biggest pharmacy chains in America, CVS Health and Walgreen Co., announced agreements to pay roughly $5 billion each to settle lawsuits over opioids. A lawyer said Walmart- another large pharmacy- is currently in talks for a deal.
The lawsuits underway mark a change in the legal field with regards to the opioid epidemic. Rather than wondering if companies related to drugs would be tried or sued, we are now question how their money will settlement will be used and whether it cease the effects of an intensifying crisis.
The epidemic has killed hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S., with almost 48,000 overdose deaths in 2017 alone. The lawsuits were brought by states, cities, and counties that said the companies helped fuel the addiction crisis by filling too many opioid prescriptions and not doing enough to stop suspicious orders.
If these deals go through, many lawsuits filed by governments against pharmacies will be null and void. These suits claimed that the pharmacies in question filled prescriptions which should have been red-flagged as improper. With some of the biggest pharma companies and distribution companies already proposing or finalizing settlements, it's likely that these will be among the last multibillion-dollar settlements to be announced.
The settlements are the latest development in a years-long legal battle over who should pay for the damage caused by the opioid epidemic. More than 400,000 people have died from overdoses involving opioids since 1999, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than $50 billion would be spent in total to settle, with most of it required to be used by state and local governments for initiatives relating to opioids. These settlements come after more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S., which have been linked two decades ago to opioids.
Courtney Gary-Allen, who is the organizing director of the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project said that average Americans have been struggling with this crisis for a long time. "It's one more thing that those guilty of overdoses have to pay for."
Gary-Allen, a member of the council that will direct how Maine spends its opioid settlement funds, stated that an increased budget would be beneficial. In her state, she noted, there is a demand for more beds in medical detox and treatment facilities.
Although both Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS and Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens are not confessing to any wrongdoings, they have been accused of many.
A group of state attorneys general have been mediating to create these plans. However, before they can progress, state and local governments need to agree to participate. The government entities have not yet seen the detailed deals so that they can make a decision.
If these plans go through, CVS would pay $4.9 billion to local governments and $130 million to Native American tribes over 10 years. Walgreens would have a slighter higher payout of $4.8 billion to government entities and $155 million to tribes--but only over the course of 15 years. The total amount hinged on how many governments choose to participate in the deals respectively.
By educating the public and placing safe drug disposal units in places such as stores and departments, both entities hope to resolve the crisis while still being able to focus on their business goals.
In a statement, Thomas Moriarty, CVS chief policy officer and general counsel said that resolving these longstanding claims is in the best interest of all parties. This includes our customers, colleagues, shareholders and anyone else affected by this case. By coming to an agreement on these terms, it will be beneficial for everyone included moving forward.
Walgreens emphasized its dedication to being part of the solution in a statement, saying: "We remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and wellbeing of our customers and patients."
Paul Geller, who represents governments in the lawsuits said Wednesday that talks with Walmart are ongoing. When reached for comment, Walmart representatives declined to speak on the matter.
The lawyers for the local governments stated that theseagreements will be the first resolutions reached with pharmacy chains,which will equip communities across America with much-needed toolsto help fight back against this epidemic. They noted that, in additionto payments totaling billions of dollars, these companies have alsocommitted to making significant improvements to their dispensingpractices so as to reduce addiction moving forward.
If these settlements are completed, they would leave mostly smaller drug industry players as defendants in lawsuits. Just this week, a group of regional pharmacy chains sent information about the claims they face to a judge who is overseeing federal litigation; this could be an indication that those firms are preparing for trials or mediating settlements.
“We will not rest until every player in the addiction industry is held accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said. “These companies need to change their business practices and provide resources for those struggling with addiction. It's time for them to step up and be a part of the solution.”
The majority of the nation's opioid overdoses were originally from prescription drugs. However, as governments, doctors and companies made it more difficult to obtain these drugs and abuse them, people addicted to opioids switched to heroin instead. Heroin was much more deadly than prescription drugs.
In recent years, the number of annual opioid deaths have increased dramatically to approximately 80,000. The majority of these fatalities are caused by black market versions of the potent fentanyl which is becoming more and more prevalent in illegal drugs within the United States.
Compared to other opioid settlements, the CVS deal is quite large. This year, distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson settled for a combined worth of $21 billion, while drugmaker Johnson & Johnson's settlement was only for $5 billion.
A court has put a hold on Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family's proposed settlement, which would involve up to $6 billion in cash, plus the value of the company. The new entity created from this deal would funnel its profits into combating the epidemic.
Now that these companies have been held accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic, it is important to see what changes they plan on implementing to prevent future recklessness. CVS has stated that they will be changing their pain management program and Walgreens plans on increasing its use of the prescription drug monitoring program.
The CVS and Walgreens settlements are a direct result of the lawsuits that have been filed against them, as well as other companies in the industry.
These companies have been accused of contributing to the opioid epidemic by knowingly selling large quantities of opioids to "pill mills" and pharmacies that dispensed these drugs without proper medical supervision.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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