West Virginia has accepted an $83 million settlement from Walgreens for the pharmacy chain’s role in the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The company is accused of exacerbating the opioid crisis by contributing to the oversupply of prescription opioids, leading to increased costs to the state. The pharmaceutical company’s actions spiked the need for rehabilitation programs, medical treatments for children born addicted to opioids, overdose medications such as naloxone, and medical examiner services to cope with the effects of rampant addiction in West Virginia.
“We will continue to seek out justice for those affected the most by the opioid epidemic that hit our state the hardest,” Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said on Jan. 18. “This and other settlements will not bring back the lives lost from the opioid menace, but our hope is that the money would provide significant help to those affected the most by this crisis in West Virginia.”
West Virginia reached settlements with other pharmacy chains in September. Walmart agreed to pay just over $65 million for its role in the epidemic. CVS agreed to pay $82.5 million. Rite Aid settled with the state for $30 million in August.
Walgreens now has eight years to pay the multi-million settlement.
Under the West Virginia First Memorandum of Understanding of 2021, the money secured through these settlements is distributed throughout the state to combat the impact of the opioid crisis.
“The MOU is an agreement with the state and local governments on how future settlement dollars would be used to abate the opioid crisis throughout the state,” stated the Attorney General’s Office. “It contains a comprehensive plan to use those funds to abate the massive problems caused by the flood of opioids into West Virginia.”
In November of 2022, Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart agreed to pay a total of $13.8 billion to settle “thousands of U.S. state and local lawsuits accusing the pharmacy chains of mishandling opioid pain drugs,” per Reuters.
West Virginia is still litigating an opioid crisis-related lawsuit against Kroger. The pharmacy and grocery store chain allegedly did not report suspicious drug orders to the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy and the Drug Enforcement Agency, per The Hill.
“So many lives have been lost and shattered by this menace,” said Morrisey. “We will continue to fight for those families and we will serve as the voices of the sons and daughters they have lost.”
According to the DEA, drug wholesalers shipped 780 million pills of hydrocodone and oxycodone to West Virginia between 2007 and 2012. That is 433 pills for each resident of the state.
Between 2014 and 2020, West Virginia had the greatest number of drug overdoses of any state in the nation.