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Tennessee sues Walgreens pharmacy chain over opioid distribution By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Tablets of the opioid-based Hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Portsmouth, Ohio, June 21, 2017. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston/

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – The state of Tennessee sued Walgreens on Wednesday, accusing the retail pharmacy big of fueling the state’s opioid epidemic by willfully flooding the market with an oversupply of prescription narcotics in violation of shopper safety and public nuisance legal guidelines.

Based on the lawsuit, Walgreens used its place as one of many state’s largest pharmacy chains to dispense over 1.1 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone drugs inside Tennessee from 2006 to 2020, roughly equal to 175 tablets for each resident of the state.

“The sheer quantity of opioids that Walgreens launched into Tennessee was unreasonable and extremely suspicious on its face,” mentioned the 148-page lawsuit, filed in Knox County Circuit Courtroom. “Walgreens completely saturated the state of Tennessee with narcotics.”

Tennessee, residence to almost 7 million residents, has been one of many hardest-hit within the U.S. opioid disaster, documenting at the least three opioid-related overdose deaths day-after-day, in line with the lawsuit.

“Walgreens didn’t flood the state of Tennessee with opioids by chance. Quite, the gas that Walgreens added to the hearth of the opioid epidemic was the results of realizing – or willfully ignorant – company choices,” it mentioned.

Walgreens has been the goal of comparable lawsuits introduced by different jurisdictions.

In Could, its company guardian, the Illinois-based holding firm Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:) Inc, reached a $683 million settlement with Florida to resolve claims that the pharmacy chain exacerbated an opioid epidemic in that state. However Walgreens didn’t admit to wrongdoing beneath the settlement.

“We are going to proceed to defend in opposition to the unjustified assaults on the professionalism of our pharmacists, devoted well being professionals who stay within the communities they serve,” the corporate mentioned in an announcement emailed to Reuters on Wednesday.

“Walgreens by no means manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we distribute them to the ache clinics and “capsule mills” that fueled this disaster,” the corporate mentioned.

Based on the lawsuit, Walgreens successfully turned a part of an “illegal managed substance promoting scheme” by ignoring quite a few indicators of suspicious opioid prescription practices.

The go well with cited such “crimson flags” as an absence of individualized dosing; a number of prescriptions for the strongest dose out there; many purchasers with the identical analysis codes; excessive percentages of sufferers paying in money; clients often searching for early refills; and clients touring lengthy distances to fill prescriptions.

Tennessee’s best leap in opioid allotting, in line with the lawsuit, coincided with the years 2006 to 2014 when Walgreens operated as a wholesale distributor for its personal pharmacies, thus occupying two rungs of the provision chain.

Working some 200 to 300 shops statewide, Walgreens pharmacies collectively bought 795 million opioids from distributors throughout that interval, the go well with mentioned. Some have been sourced from different wholesalers, however Walgreens “self-distributed” 81% of its personal retail opioid provides in that period, in line with the criticism.

The same lawsuit introduced in opposition to Walgreens and two pharmaceutical corporations by town of San Francisco is now into account by a federal decide following an 11-week trial throughout which the 2 different companies reached a $58 million settlement with town final month.

Individually, a federal court docket jury determined in November that Walgreens, together with fellow pharmacy chain CVS Well being Corp (NYSE:) and low cost retail big Walmart (NYSE:) Inc, was responsible for serving to create a public nuisance with an alleged flood of ache drugs that wound up on the black market in two Ohio counties.

It’s now as much as a federal decide to resolve what the businesses ought to pay.

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