Walgreen’s ignored red flags regarding suspicious opioid orders, Tennessee’s AG says.
Tennessee’s Attorney General (AG) Herbert H. Slatery III is suing Walgreens, alleging the large, nationwide drugstore chain helped fuel to the state’s opioid crisis by turning a blind eye to suspicious orders and failing to have controls in place to ward off potential abuse. The state’s lawsuit alleges violations of Tennessee’s Consumer Protection Act and is seeking unspecified civil penalties. It was filed in Knox County Circuit Court.
According to court documents, “Between 2006 and 2020, Walgreens retail stores in Tennessee dispensed more than 1.1 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills. One pharmacy alone in Jamestown dispensed enough opioids over that period to supply each resident with 2,104 pills.” It alleges Walgreens created “a public nuisance and for years failed to perform due diligence or train its pharmacists on how to recognize suspicious activity for opioid abuse and diversion…From June 2013 to March 2014, Walgreens pharmacies in Tennessee dispensed 103,000 pills prescribed by an obstetrician in Germantown. Nearly 20% of those were for out-of-state patients.”
Slatery said, “Walgreens did not flood the State of Tennessee with opioids by accident. Rather, the fuel that Walgreens added to the fire of the opioid epidemic was the result of knowing – or willfully ignorant – corporate decisions. Walgreens ignored numerous red flags and failed to detect and prevent the abuse and diversion of dangerous narcotics.”
Tennessee’s lawsuit further states, “Walgreens filled numerous opioid prescriptions for children as young as 2. A dentist in Erin wrote such a prescription that was 2.5 times the recommended maximum daily dose of opioids for an adult.”
Walgreens responded that it “never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we distribute them to the pain clinics and ‘pill mills’ that fueled this crisis. We will continue to defend against the unjustified attacks on the professionalism of our pharmacists, dedicated healthcare professionals who live in the communities they serve.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the U.S. opioid epidemic has taken the lives of 500,000 people in the last two decades. State and local governments, Native American tribes, unions, hospitals and other entities have filed more than 3,000 lawsuits against defendants they alleged helped drive the epidemic, including pharmacy chains, drugstores and other distributors, physicians, opioid consulting firms, and drug makers, among others.
Far from over, experts are now forecasting that opioid overdoses will skyrocket in both rural and urban areas in the coming years because of the lethal mixing of drugs like fentanyl into the illicit opioid supply. Their findings were published online July 28 in JAMA Network Open. Many individuals who had initially been prescribed opioids by their providers are now turning to street drugs to manage their addiction.
“The coming wave of opioid overdoses will be worse than ever seen before,” said researchers from Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.
And opioid litigation will continue so long as overdoses continue to take lives. AbbVie, the parent company of Allergan, recently announced a proposed $2.37 billion settlement to resolve allegations that Allergan used deceptive marketing practices to promote its branded opioid drugs. If the deal goes through, it is expected to also allow a settlement on behalf of Teva to go through. Teva bought AbbVie’s generic drug division.