US: Walmart proposes to pay $3.1 billion legal settlement for opioid lawsuits

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On Tuesday, United States’ retail giant Walmart offered to pay $3.1 billion to settle the lawsuits against the company for the damage caused by prescription opioids sold at its pharmacies. This comes weeks after the country’s largest pharmacy chains, CVS Health and Walgreen Co. proposed a similar $5 billion each settlement. 

In a statement, the Arkansas-based Walmart said that it “strongly disputes” the allegations put forth by state and local governments in the lawsuits accusing its pharmacies of not adhering to the standards of filling the prescriptions for the powerful prescription drugs.

They believe that the settlement is in the “best interest of all parties and will provide significant aid to communities across the country in the fight against the opioid crisis, with aid reaching state and local governments faster than any other nationwide opioid settlement to date.” However, the company has not admitted any liability with the lawsuit. 

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The Walmart deal was made following negotiations with a group of state AGs, however, it is not final and would have to be approved by 43 of the 50 states by December 15. While local governments can sign on by March, next year the amount received by each state partly depends on the number of local governments that agree. Currently, the governments are in the midst of devising spending plans, said a report by Associated Press. 

Meanwhile, lawyers representing the local governments have said if finalised the company must pay most of the settlement over the next year. In a statement, New York Attorney General, Letitia James said the retail giant would also have to comply with oversight measures, work on the prevention of fraudulent prescriptions and flag any suspicious ones. 

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On the other hand, Nebraska AG, Doug Peterson, said that since 2018 Walmart had filled “significantly fewer prescriptions for opioids” when compared to CVS or Walgreens. However, it has also been “most proactive in trying to monitor and control prescription opioid diversion attempts through its pharmacies.” 

Walmart’s settlement will add to the more than $50 billion settlements which will be aimed to reduce deaths caused by drug overdose, while the amount proposed represents at least two per cent of their quarterly revenue. According to the federal government, data opioids have caused nearly 650,000 overdose deaths since 1999 in the US. 

ALSO READ: CVS, Walmart, Walgreens agree to pay $13.8 billion to settle US opioid lawsuits: Reports

Over the past two decades, different types of opioids have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the US. In recent years, the number has soared to 80,000 a year and most of the deaths reportedly involve the use of the synthetic drug fentanyl. Therefore, state and local government authorities have said they will use this settlement money to combat the opioid crisis. 

(With inputs from agencies) 



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