Walgreens, CVS agree to pay $10 billion to settle lawsuits linked to opioid sales

Most of the money is to be used to fight the overdose epidemic. The deals are among the largest of proposed and finalized settlements over the opioid crisis totaling over $50 billion.

SHARE Walgreens, CVS agree to pay $10 billion to settle lawsuits linked to opioid sales
Opioid pills.

Walgreens would pay $5.7 billion over 15 years and CVS nearly $5 billion over 10 years in a settlement over their roles in the opioid crisis.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Walgreens and CVS have agreed to pay state and local governments a combined total of more than $10 billion to settle lawsuits over the toll of opioids and now want to know by Dec. 31 whether states are accepting the deals.

States have now announced final details of settlements that the two largest pharmacy chains in the United States offered last month.

The deals are among the largest in a wave of proposed and finalized settlements over the nation’s opioid crisis in recent years totaling more than $50 billion. 

Another big pharmacy operator, Walmart, also agreed to a settlement last month for $3.1 billion.

Though lawyers involved in the cases are in line for a cut of the payments, most of the money is to be used to fight an overdose epidemic that has deepened in recent years.

Opioids have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States  in the past two decades, with most of the deaths coming in recent years. 

The drugs responsible for the bulk of the deaths have shifted from prescription painkillers to illicitly produced fentanyl, which is often mixed into other street drugs.

In the 2010s, state and local governments filed thousands of lawsuits seeking to hold the drug industry accountable for the crisis. Key drugmakers and distribution companies already have agreed to settlements.

Now, the big pharmacy chains — which were subject to claims that they should have realized they were filling too many opioid prescriptions — are following suit.

Under the separate deals, states have until the end of the year to agree to drop claims over opioids against Walgreens and CVS to get the maximum payouts.

If there aren’t enough states participating, the companies can back out.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said that state, which could get up to $510 million in the Walgreens settlement, is still assessing the terms of the CVS deal.

If there is sufficient sign-on from states, local governments also can sign on to get shares.

The amount awarded to governments is based on their population and the severity of the opioid crisis there. States will get bigger amounts if more of their local governments agree.

The Walgreens payments could total up to $5.52 billion over 15 years. The CVS payments could reach $4.9 billion over 10 years. 

The companies also have announced plans for payments to Native American tribes totaling more than $250 million.

Like other opioid settlements, the agreements call for governments that receive money to use it to fight the drug crisis.

Under the deals, about $1.2 billion would be set aside for lawyers’ fees and legal expenses.

The companies also have agreed to monitor, report and share data about suspicious activity related to opioid prescriptions.

“CVS and Walgreens flooded our cities and towns with bottles upon bottles of pills with callous disregard for the suffering their actions caused,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said. “Our settlement mandates significant changes to their business practices, including court-ordered monitoring to ensure the checks and balances that should have been in place all along will now be aggressively enforced.”

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