National pharmacy chain issues communication defending itself against opioid allegations.
Since the late 1990s, when drug firms and pharmacies such as Walmart Corp. began dispensing significantly more opioid prescriptions, communities were being infiltrated with these products at alarming rates, especially communities with the nation’s most vulnerable populations. By law, pharmacists must track, halt, and report unusual orders for controlled substances like prescription opioids. However, this protocol hasn’t always been followed.
The crutch of the cases brought against the pharmacies is that the chains allegedly ignored suspicious opioid orders, allowing them to be dispensed and ultimately end up in the hands of patients instead of reporting these to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Plaintiffs have indicated that pharmacists ignored red flags altogether, and this led to more and more people becoming addicted.
“What they did was too little, too late,” said Mark Lanier, with the Lanier Law Firm, one of the lead attorneys involved in the 2021 federal case against the pharmacies.
Now, Walmart Corp. is evidently trying to “set the record straight” by releasing a communication defending itself against claims of negligence. In the statement, the company assures the public that it is doing everything it can to mitigate risk for its patients. “In addition,” the release reads, “as part of our good-faith efforts to address the opioid problem, Walmart has prevented thousands of doctors with dubious reputations from having their opioid prescriptions filled by any of our pharmacists.”
This, in fact, has been the position of many of the pharmacies right from the beginning – that doctors should be the ones to blame. They have argued that pharmacists simply fill written orders by practitioners, and because these scripts were issued by members of the medical community, they are the ones to blame for any misuse.
However, Walmart Corp., of course, says it’s not doctor-blaming. The release reads: “One serious and big-picture problem with the plaintiffs’ attempt to turn pharmacists and pharmacies into the ‘doctor police’ is that it forces them to come between doctors and their patients in a way Congress never intended, and federal and state health regulators say isn’t allowed. And many patients say that pharmacies are preventing them from getting needed medicine.”
The statement continues, in case this position isn’t clear, “Pharmacists aren’t doctors and don’t write opioid prescriptions. Instead, when a patient hands an opioid prescription written by a state licensed and DEA-approved doctor to a pharmacist, a pharmacist has to decide whether to fill it. No one disputes that if a pharmacist knows a prescription is fake or forged, she shouldn’t fill it. The plaintiffs’ lawsuits raise a different issue: What should a pharmacist do with a prescription that is valid on its face and written by a state-licensed and DEA-approved doctor? For a prescription like that, should a pharmacist accept the doctor’s medical judgment and fill the prescription? Or should a pharmacist second-guess the doctor and not fill it, leaving the patient without the medicine prescribed…”
This seems to once again surmise that the doctors are to blame even though Walmart is trying to convince the public that it is not doctor-blaming. It’s also quick to say that patients shouldn’t be left high and dry.
So, what’s the answer here? Ultimately, that’s up to the courts to decide.