AG Stein announces $11B opioid settlement with CVS and Walgreens
State Attorney General Josh Stein has announced a nationwide settlement of nearly $11 billion with CVS and Walgreens over their alleged roles in the opioid crisis.
Stein is one of 18 state attorneys general who helped negotiate the terms. He claims CVS and Walgreens failed to properly oversee their prescriptions and inundated patients with addictive painkillers.
"They allowed just incredible dumping of pills into communities and did not have adequate red flags to identify when a particular pharmacy was turning into a pill mill," said Stein.
States announced final details Monday of settlements that the two largest pharmacy chains in the U.S. offered last month.
CVS and Walgreens did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement. The companies want to know by Dec. 31 whether states are accepting the deals.
North Carolina's share of opioid settlements going back to 2019 is more than $1 billion. The deal with CVS and Walgreens still needs approval from other state attorneys general. The group previously agreed to a $3.1 billion settlement with Walmart pharmacies.
Among largest recent opioid settlements
The deals are among the largest in a wave of proposed and finalized settlements over opioids in recent years totaling more than $50 billion.
Although lawyers involved in the cases are in line for a cut of the payments, most of the money is to be used to fight an overdose epidemic that has only deepened in recent years.
Opioids have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. in the past two decades, with the most casualties in recent years. The drugs responsible for the bulk of the deaths have shifted from prescription painkillers to illicitly produced fentanyl, which is often being mixed into other street drugs.
In the 2010s, state and local governments filed thousands of lawsuits seeking to hold the drug industry accountable for the crisis. Key drugmakers and distribution companies have already agreed to settlements.
Now, pharmacies, which were subject to claims that they should have realized they were filling too many opioid prescriptions, are following suit.
Under the separate deals, states have until the end of the year to agree to drop claims over opioids against Walgreens and CVS to receive the maximum payouts.
If there aren't enough states participating, the companies can back out. If there is sufficient sign-on from states, local governments can also sign on to get shares.
The amount awarded to governments is based on their populations and the severity of the opioid crisis there. States will get bigger amounts if more of their local governments agree.
The Walgreens payments could total up to $5.52 billion over 15 years. The CVS payments could reach $4.9 billion over 10 years. Additionally, the companies have announced tentative payments to Native American tribes totaling more than $250 million.
How settlement funds can be used
Like other opioid settlements, the agreements call for governments that receive money to use it to fight the drug crisis.
Under the deals, about $1.2 billion would be set aside for lawyers' fees and legal expenses.
The companies also have agreed to monitor, report and share data about suspicious activity related to opioid prescriptions.
“CVS and Walgreens flooded our cities and towns with bottles upon bottles of pills with callous disregard for the suffering their actions caused,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement Monday. “Our settlement mandates significant changes to their business practices, including court-ordered monitoring to ensure the checks and balances that should have been in place all along will now be aggressively enforced.”
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