CVS and Walgreens announce $10 billion opioid settlement | National

CVS Health and Walgreen Co . announced Wednesday agreements in principle to pay about $5 billion each to settle lawsuits across the country amount of opioidsand an attorney said Walmart is in discussions about a deal.

Together, the developments represent what could be the latest round of huge settlements after years of litigation over the drug industry’s role in the overdose epidemic that has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the US over the past two decades.

In the lawsuits, the governments said the pharmacies filled prescriptions they should have labeled as inappropriate.

The agreements call for most of the funds from Woonsocket, Rhode Island-based CVS and Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens to help fight the opioid crisis.

Under previous plans, CVS would pay $4.9 billion to local governments and about $130 million to Indian tribes over a decade. Walgreens would pay $4.8 billion to the government and $155 million to tribes over 15 years. The exact amount depends on how many governments join the deals.

CVS announced its plan along with its earnings report on Wednesday, and Walgreens made an SEC filing with some details.

“We are pleased to resolve these long-standing claims, and dismissing them is in the best interests of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” Thomas Moriarty, general counsel of CVS, said in a statement. “We are committed to working with states, municipalities and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegal use of prescription opioids.”

CVS has launched education programs and installed safe drug disposal units in stores and police departments, among other measures to reduce opioid abuse.

Neither CVS nor Walgreens has admitted wrongdoing.

Walmart officials did not immediately return calls Wednesday, but Paul Geller, the governments’ attorney in the lawsuits, said negotiations with the company are continuing.

“These agreements will be the first resolutions reached with chain pharmacies and will give communities across the country much-needed tools to fight this epidemic and make tangible, positive changes,” local government lawyers said in a statement. “In addition to payments totaling billions of dollars, these companies have committed to making significant improvements to their dispensing practices to help reduce addiction going forward.”

The proposed pacts bring a nationwide reckoning finalized and completed settlements between companies and governments by more than $50 billion.

Opioids have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the US over the past two decades. Most deaths are initially related to prescription drugs. As governments, doctors and companies have taken steps to make them harder to abuse and obtain, people with opioid use disorder have increasingly turned to the more deadly heroin.

In recent years, opioid-related deaths have risen to a record high of about 80,000 per year. Most of these deaths are linked to an illegally manufactured version of the powerful laboratory drug fentanylwhich appears in the entire supply of illegal drugs in the United States.

The settlement was announced amid growing litigation over the role of pharmacies in the opioid crisis. On Tuesday, 18 companies — most of them related to pharmacies — filed briefs with the judge overseeing opioid lawsuits detailing where they stand in the lawsuits.

Only a handful of opioid settlements have had larger dollar figures than the CVS plan. Distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson completed a combined $21 billion settlement this year, and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson struck a $5 billion deal.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and members of the Sackler family, who own the company, have proposed settlement this will include up to $6 billion in cash plus the value of the company, which will be spun off into a new entity and its profits will be used to fight the epidemic. That plan was put on hold by the court.

Associated Press writer Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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