Walgreens Sued By Kentucky For Alleged Role In Opioid Crisis

By Paul Fuhr 06/20/18

"While Walgreens' slogan was 'at the corner of happy and healthy,' they have significantly harmed the health of our families in fueling the opioid epidemic," says the Kentucky AG.

Walgreens store

The state of Kentucky is suing Walgreens, arguing that the pharmacy giant used “unlawful business practices” to fuel the state’s opioid crisis, CNN Money reports.

State Attorney General Andy Beshear claims that the retailer not only filled “massive” and “suspicious” orders of opioids, but failed to report those same orders to authorities.

Walgreens also played dual roles “on the opioid supply chain” as both distributor and dispenser, the lawsuit contended. As a distributor, Walgreens delivered opioids straight to its own pharmacies while, as a dispenser, it filled opioids prescriptions for consumers.

Walgreens had “a unique and superior position of knowledge with regard to the gross amount of opioids pumped into its stores and poured out onto the streets of Kentucky,” Beshear said in the lawsuit.

Nevertheless, Walgreens is being accused of filling orders “for such large quantities of prescription narcotic pain medication that there could be no associated legitimate medical purpose for their use.”

Beshear added that the company ignored its own “safeguard systems” in the process.  

The Walgreens lawsuit isn’t the first one Beshear has filed over Kentucky’s health crisis, either. This year alone, the Attorney General has leveled lawsuits at drugmaker Johnson & Johnson, as well as opioid distributors like AmerisourceBergen and McKesson Corporation.

“While Walgreens' slogan was 'at the corner of happy and healthy,' they have significantly harmed the health of our families in fueling the opioid epidemic. I want to make sure these billion dollar companies take responsibility and become a part of the solution,” Beshear said.

His latest lawsuit seeks to stop Walgreens from “over-dispensing opioids,” in addition to have them pay back “the amount it earned from the allegedly illegal gains.”

In the meantime, other companies have taken actions that they believe will help curb the crisis. Walmart, for one, recently introduced a method to safely destroy leftover opioids at home: DisposeRx, which, when it’s mixed with warm water, turns any form of opioid into a biodegradable gel. Walmart and CVS both announced that they would limit the lengths of opioid prescriptions.  

Kentucky’s lawsuit also follows on the heels of other states that have sued drug makers and distributors in recent months. In May, the Texas Attorney General’s Office sued Purdue Pharma for allegedly fueling the opioid crisis and “misrepresenting the risks” of opioid addiction.

“We must make those who have caused the opioid crisis feel the pain that they have inflicted on our community,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi also filed an action against some of the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers claiming that they used deceptive techniques to increase prescriptions.

“The complaint I filed today, seeks to hold some of the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in this crisis and seeks payment for the pain and destruction their actions have caused Florida and its citizens,” Bondi said in a statement.

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at paulfuhr.com. You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.