Walgreens, CVS on the Hook in Florida for Opioid Epidemic
The state of Florida is suing the nation’s two largest drugstore chains, Walgreens and CVS, over allegations that the chains actively contributed to the national opioid epidemic by overselling painkillers and not taking action to stop illegal sales of prescription medications. Attorney General Pam Bondi announced she has decided to add the companies to a state filed lawsuit first issued by Florida in the spring against Purdue Pharma and several opioid distributors.
“It’s time the defendants pay for the pain and the destruction they’ve caused,” Bondi said when the lawsuit was originally announced. She added that CVS and Walgreens “played a role in creating the opioid crisis.” The companies failed to stop “suspicious orders of opioids” and “dispensed unreasonable quantities of opioids from their pharmacies,” Bondi said.
On average, about 45 people die nationally every day due to opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem is overwhelming in the state of Florida.
“We will continue to pursue those companies that played a role in creating the opioid crisis,” Bondi continued. “Thousands of Floridians have suffered as a result of the actions of the defendants.”
CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis said Florida’s lawsuit was “without merit.” He said the drugstore chain rigorously trains its pharmacists and other staff members on their responsibilities when dispensing controlled substances and gives them the tools necessary to detect potentially illegal sales of these drugs, so the allegations are not even plausible.
“Over the past several years, CVS has taken numerous actions to strengthen our existing safeguards to help address the nation’s opioid epidemic,” DeAngelis said.
“Walgreens agreed to pay $80 million to resolve a DEA investigation into inadequate recordkeeping and diversion related to opioids,” the Florida filing contends. “According to the DEA, Walgreens’ Florida pharmacies each allegedly ordered more than one million dosage units of oxycodone in 2011 — more than ten times the average amount.” It continues, “According to public news reports, in Pasco County, ‘a Walgreens drug distribution center sold 2.2 million tablets to a single Walgreens’ pharmacy in tiny Hudson, a roughly six-month supply for each of its 12,000 residents.’ North of Jupiter, Florida, it shipped more than 1.1 million pills to each of two Fort Pierce Walgreens pharmacies.”
For many years, Florida had been known for its pain mills at which drug dealers would send associates to store-front clinics where physicians would write opioid prescriptions for made up injuries and illnesses. After receiving the prescriptions, individuals posing as patients would buy the pills from Florida pharmacies, and most of the opioids would then be taken out of state to be resold illegally on the states at high prices. According to the lawsuit, Walgreens has dispensed billions of opioid dosages from its Florida pharmacies since 2006.
For example, the Florida opioid epidemic lawsuit states, Walgreens distributed a total of 2.2 million opioid tablets from its store in the 12,000 resident Hudson just outside of Tampa and in one unidentified town of only 3,000, it sold 285,000 pills in a month. Florida’s accused CVS of selling 700 million opioid dosages between 2006 and 2014.