After a settlement deal, Rite Aid will not have to participate in the next few rounds of litigation.
Rite Aid Corp has applied a $10.5M settlement to counties in three states allowing it to accuse itself in the next round of opioid trials, which are scheduled to begin next year against national pharmacy chains. Rite Aid has agreed to pay $3.5 million each to Georgia’s Cobb County, North Carolina’s Durham County and Ohio’s Montgomery County, essentially covering the next trials for which it would have been the defendant. The national chain did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the deal.
Joe Rice, an attorney for Montgomery County, Ohio, confirmed the decision and said the $10.5M settlement was contingent on Rite Aid’s “continued pursuit of insurance coverage for opioid lawsuits.” The Cobb County Board of Commissioners recently approved the deal at a recent meeting.
Missy Owen, co-founder of an addiction recovery organization called the Davis Direction Foundation, said, “It is time to put the litigation behind us and begin focusing on the real task at hand – saving lives.”
State and local governments have filed thousands of lawsuits against drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy chains, accusing them of fueling the deadly addiction epidemic largely through deceptive marketing practice, an oversupply of drugs in the market that could be misused or diverted for illicit use and little oversight of suspicious prescription orders.
The lawsuits were consolidated five years ago in 2017 in multidistrict litigation in Cleveland, Ohio, before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster. Bellwether trials have been previously carried out in three states – Ohio, California and West Virginia. The litigation has resulted in settlements with some of the nation’s largest distributors and manufacturers, including a $26 billion settlement with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson (J&J), consulting firm McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp, and Cardinal Health Inc.
Cobb County said it “expects to proceed to trial in 2023 against other defendants, including Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, CVS Health Corp and Walmart Inc.”
As the next wave of trials focusing on pharmacy defendants gears up, Rite Aid’s $10.5M deal will ultimately protect it from a year-and-a-half of involvement. Pharmacies continue to face new legal issues, too. Utah’s Attorney General filed a complaint against Walgreens, Rite Aid and Kroger on July 2, and Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton has said it was launching an investigation into Walmart’s opioid dispensing practices on June 28.
“I have fought for Texans who have been tragically impacted by the illegal marketing and sale of opioids, which have caused addiction and the untimely deaths of thousands of people each year,” Paxton said. “I am committed to holding pharmacies accountable if they played a role in this devastating epidemic.”
Walmart responded that it would answer the Texas Attorney General’s questions and that it was confident that its pharmacists adhere to strict opioid safety measures. It has denied any wrongdoing with regards to the issues being investigated.
Florida is the only state to have reached a comprehensive opioid settlement with pharmacy chains so far to date.
The epidemic caused more than 80,000 opioid overdose deaths in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).