The state of Texas launched an investigation against Walmart for its alleged role in the opioid crisis.
Texas AG Ken Paxton is investigating whether Walmart improperly handled prescriptions, filling them without regard as to whether they would be diverted to illicit use. He is also looking into whether the pharmacy chain failed to report suspicious opioid orders.
Texas AG Paxton has officially opened a civil investigation into the matter, citing potential violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) relating to the promotion, sale, dispensing and distribution of prescription opioids. The DTPA was enacted on May 21, 1973, and its primary purpose is to protect consumers against “false, misleading, and deceptive business and insurance practices, unconscionable actions, and breaches of warranty,” according to state records.
Paxton’s probe centers around alleged issues with Walmart’s compliance with a requirement to submit documentation to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and all state agencies in Texas should the chain believe it has received a suspicious order. These orders tend to be written to patients without a clear medical purpose and/or are written for far more than the standard amount that is usually given.
“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.
“The company’s pharmacists have refused to fill hundreds of thousands of potentially problematic opioid prescriptions, and it has been chastised for being too cautious at times, including by the Texas Medical Board,” Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said. “Walmart and our pharmacists are torn between the demands on pharmacists imposed by opioids plaintiffs on one side and health agencies and regulators on the other, and patients are caught in the middle.”
Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a separate lawsuit against Walmart for alleged failure to report suspicious opioid orders. A fair share of the government’s evidence presented in that case concerned examples of Texas prescription orders.
That lawsuit was put on hold in 2021 so that the Supreme Court could review a separate case involving the criminal conviction of two doctors found guilty of misusing their licenses to fill thousands of prescriptions for addictive opioids. That case was decided late last month, with the court deciding unanimously that the two doctors were not in the wrong based on the arguments presented in the case.
Now, the government’s lawsuit against Walmart is resuming and a decision is expected to be made shortly.
Yet another case against Walmart and other pharmacy chains has been brought to order on behalf of two Ohio counties. The judge has not yet made a ruling.