Two pharmacy chains have settled a lawsuit brought by the federal government over the companies’ roll in the opioid epidemic.
CVS and Walgreens have agreed to each pay about $5 billion.
The pharmaceutical industry has been linked to more than 500,000 opioid deaths over the last twenty years. The majority of these deaths have been linked to percriptions opioids. The U.S. currently averages an estimated 80,000 opioid deaths each year.
The joint $10 billion will be used to “fight the opioid crisis through such efforts as expanding treatment and support programs for people with addiction, along with providing overdose antidotes and launching prevention efforts,” per AP News.
CVS said the settlement is “not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing.”
“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,” said CVS Health’s Chief Policy Officer and General Counsel Thomas Moriartyin a Nov. 2 statement. “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.”
In addition to listing its efforts to fight opioids abuse in Ameica, the Rhode Island-based company noted that that “the timing of cash settlement payments, spread over multiple years, allows the company to continue to invest in its strategic priorities.”
In total, CVS agreed to pay $4.9 billion to state and politcal subdivisons and set a tentative timeline of 2023 to 2033 for payment completion.
Illinois-based Walgreens will pay $4.7 billion over 15 years and also stated the agreement was not an admission of wrongdoing or liability.
“As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation, 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, while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis,” Walgreen said in its statement. “We believe this is in the best interest of the company and our stakeholders at this time, and allows our pharmacists, dedicated healthcare professionals who live and work in the communities they serve, to continue playing a critical role in providing education and resources to help combat opioid misuse and abuse.”
Additonally, CVS will also pay $130 million to Native American tribes over the next decade while Walgreen will pay $155 million.
Walmart has reportedly also reached a settlement with state and tribal government for its alleged role in the opioid crisis. The New York Post reports company insiders have said the chain retailer will pay $3.1 billion. Walmart has not confirmed this report.
Drugmakers, including Oxycotin maker Perdue Pharmaceuticals, have been hit with more than 3,300 lawsuits allegeding they downplayed the addictive nature and risks of their opioid pain medications. Pharmacies and distributors, in turn, were accused of failing to act on signs the medication was being illegally sold.