Walgreens added to San Francisco’s opioid epidemic through prescription drug sales, judge says
Walgreens Boots Alliance WBA-Q contributed to San Francisco’s opioid epidemic through its sale of prescription drugs in the city, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco said Walgreens failed to properly investigate suspicious opioid orders for nearly 15 years. The amount the pharmacy chain has to pay will be determined in a later trial.
Walgreens pharmacists filled hundreds of thousands of suspect opioid prescriptions from 2006 to 2020 without pharmacists having the time, staff or resources to properly investigate red flags, Breyer wrote.
In 2018, San Francisco sued Walgreens, along with several drugmakers and distributors, over the city’s opioid epidemic, claiming they had created a “public nuisance” by flooding the city with opioids on prescription and failing to prevent the diversion of drugs for illegal purposes. use.
A trial began in April and all of the defendants except Walgreens reached settlements with the city before the court ruled.
Breyer said San Francisco has shown that Walgreens’ lax oversight is driving illegal drug use that is contributing significantly to the city’s opioid epidemic.
Walgreens said it was disappointed with the decision and intends to appeal.
“We have never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor have we distributed them to the ‘pill mills’ and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis,” Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman said. .
The opioid epidemic has caused more than 500,000 opioid overdose deaths in two decades, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3,300 opioid lawsuits have been filed nationwide against drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies, resulting in many other companies — but not pharmacies — accepting the proposed global settlements.
The opioid crisis has hit San Francisco hard, with opioid emergencies tripling from 886 in 2015 to 2,998 in 2020, according to the court ruling.
Paul Geller, an attorney who represented the city in the case, credited San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu with working to hold the companies accountable for their contribution to “the horrific outbreak in the region. of the bay”.
Walgreens was found guilty in 2021 of contributing to the opioid epidemic in a similar lawsuit filed by two counties in Ohio. Walgreens and its co-defendants, CVS Health Inc and Walmart, are awaiting a ruling from the Ohio court on how much they must pay to address the opioid crisis in those counties.
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