CVS, Walmart and Walgreens agree to pay $13.8 billion to settle US opioid claims

CVS, Walmart and Walgreens agree to pay $13.8 billion to settle US opioid claims

Nov 2 (Reuters) – CVS Health Corp (CVS.N), Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) and Walmart Inc (WMT.N) have agreed to pay around $13.8 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits in the United States and locals accusing pharmacy chains of mishandling opioid painkillers, potentially bringing years of litigation close to the finish line.

CVS said Wednesday it agreed to pay about $5 billion over 10 years, and Walgreens said it agreed to pay about $5.7 billion over 15 years. Neither company has admitted wrongdoing. Walmart agreed to pay $3.1 billion, mostly up front, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Paul Geller, one of the lawyers who negotiated for the governments, said the settlements with pharmacies “will bring billions of additional dollars to communities desperate for funds to fight the epidemic” of opioid addiction.

“We know that reckless, profit-driven distribution practices have fueled the crisis; but we know just as surely that with better systems in place and due heed to warnings, pharmacies can play a direct role in the reduction in opioid abuse and in saving lives,” said Geller.

CVS General Counsel Thomas Moriarty said in a statement that the company is pleased to resolve the claims and that the settlement is “in the best interests of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders.” .

Walgreens in a statement said, “As one of the nation’s largest drugstore chains, we remain committed to being part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to remain focused on health and wellness. to be of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to addressing the opioid crisis.”

CVS and Walgreens said their agreements would not be final until certain non-monetary terms are set, and the total amount could be reduced if an insufficient number of government plaintiffs sign.

Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The proposed settlement, which would be the first nationwide settlement with retail pharmacy companies, follows nationwide opioid settlements with drugmakers and distributors totaling more than $33 billion. Read more


In more than 3,300 lawsuits, as of 2017, state, local and Native American tribal governments have accused drugmakers of downplaying the risks of their opioid painkillers, and distributors and pharmacies of ignoring red flags. indicating that the prescriptions were being diverted to the illegal trade.

They said the resulting human toll, along with the strain on public health departments and law enforcement, was a public nuisance that companies had to pay to fix.

CVS, Walgreens and Walmart are the nation’s three largest retail pharmacies by market share. If their settlement becomes final, it will end much of the sprawling, years-long opioid litigation, although cases are still pending against smaller, more regional pharmacy operators, including Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N ) and Kroger Co (KR.N).

The plaintiffs had won major lawsuits against drugstore chains, including a $650.6 million judgment in favor of two counties in Ohio against CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, and a decision that Walgreens contributed to the San Francisco opioid epidemic.

San Francisco is not included in the national settlement and is due to start a second lawsuit against Walgreens next week to determine how much the company should pay.

State and local authorities have said they will use settlement money to help tackle the opioid crisis, which federal government data shows has caused nearly 650,000 overdose deaths since 1999 and continues to worsen. .

Opioid prescriptions rose sharply in the 1990s as companies aggressively promoted the drugs, long used primarily in cancer patients, as a safe way to treat all kinds of chronic pain.

Overdoses of opioids, including prescription pills and heroin, have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing 38% in 2020 from the previous year and another 15% in 2021, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency attributed much of the recent increase in overdose cases to illegally manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

A congressional report last month estimated the economic toll of the opioid crisis in 2020 alone at $1.5 trillion.

Reporting by Baranjot Kaur in Bengaluru, Brendan Pierson in New York and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi, Mark Potter and Bill Berkrot

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Brendan Pierson

Thomson Reuters

Brendan Pierson advises on product liability litigation and all areas of healthcare law. He can be reached at

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