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Opioid Drugs

San Francisco Receives $230 Million in Walgreens Opioid Settlement

— June 20, 2023

Walgreens is set to pay the City of San Fran millions for improper distribution of opioids.

In many ways, pharmacies are the first line of defense against the opioid crisis. Many of the drugs that are causing problems for so many individuals and families flow through pharmacies, which are tasked with properly distributing the drugs according to prescriptions provided by healthcare professionals. A stringent system of checks, balances, and restrictions is in place to limit the frequency of opioid drugs falling into the wrong hands. Unfortunately, that system doesn’t always work, or isn’t always executed properly by pharmacies and their owners. One recent case involving the City of San Francisco and Walgreens pharmacy chain highlights this issue and just how much work is left to be done to achieve better outcomes. 

There is a tremendous amount of pressure placed on individual pharmacists when trying to combat the illegal use of opioid drugs. With countless people trying various means to acquire these drugs, licensed pharmacists need to rely on what they are provided in order to follow regulations and make sure drugs only land in the hands of people who have been prescribed them properly. 

San Francisco Receives $230 Million in Walgreens Opioid Settlement
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

The City of San Francisco argued in this case that Walgreens as a company did not provide pharmacists with the necessary tools and resources to successfully manage the distribution of addictive drugs. Instead, those pharmacists were pressured to fill prescriptions quickly in order to keep business moving along, rather than always sticking to the required due diligence measures. The city alleged that these issues had been going on for a period of 15 years and had caused extensive damage to countless people in and around the Bay Area. 

In the end, Walgreens is going to be responsible for paying San Francisco a total of around $230 million. That sum will be paid over the course of the next 14 years, and the money is intended to be used in the ongoing battle against opioid problems in the community. Big cities like San Francisco have taken much of the brunt of the opioid crisis, so funds from these kinds of judgments will be important resources in the effort to move past the ever-growing wave of addiction. 

The impact of big financial judgments is not only seen in the benefit that these funds can provide to communities, but also in the way corporations choose to do business moving forward. When determining how to operate, big businesses will see that the financial penalties associated with non-compliance on rules and regulations may be more costly than just following those rules tightly in the first place. That could lead to a tightening of the distribution of opioids, and less access for those who have an addiction. 

More and more of these types of cases have been piling up around the country, which may be signaling a shift in pharmacy operations nationwide and what responsibility they bear in the fight against the opioid addiction crisis. If it becomes harder for those who are addicted to obtain the drugs they have been abusing, working to beat those addictions may become the more realistic path forward. 


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