On Wednesday, San Francisco announced that it had reached a $230 million settlement with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc regarding its involvement in the city’s opioid epidemic by allowing overprescription of Oxycontin to go unexamined or unstopped. The agreement will help pay expenses related to treatment, prevention, harm reduction, and recovery for individuals in the city.
The Walgreens/San Francisco Opioid Lawsuit
This agreement comes after a nine-month wait. It’s been almost nine months since US District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco decided the drugstore chain could be held accountable for significantly contributing to an opioid crisis that resulted in widespread harm in the city, thereby creating a public nuisance.
Judge Breyer criticized Walgreens for failing over 15 years to adequately monitor opioid prescriptions and identify potential misuse of these highly addictive drugs. Because of this, pill mills were able to run rampant and addicted persons were able to have multiple narcotics filled every month without any monitor.
Walgreens Settlement A Big Win Against Legal Opioid Dealers
During a press conference, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu emphasized that the settlement with Walgreens was the largest ever awarded to a local government in opioid litigation throughout the US.
While this is a big win against the opioid distributors, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the billions of dollars in profit that both the pharmacies and the manufacturers made. Chui says that the actions by Walgreens “made the opioid epidemic in San Francisco worse than it otherwise would have been” and that there is “no amount of money that will bring back the lives we have lost.”
Walgreens was the final holdout in San Francisco’s civil lawsuit. Several other drugmakers and distributors reached settlements worth more than $120 million weeks ago, but for some reason, Walgreens took much longer to get a favorable agreement with the government.
The money will go toward opioid treatment, medication-assisted treatment, harm reduction, and prevention programs.
Walgreens’ San Francisco pharmacies dispensed more than 2 million opioid prescriptions from 2006-20202, and despite the “red flags” from 2006 to 2020, less than 5% were rejected or delayed in due diligence.