Drugs Pharma

Walmart to pay Florida state $215 million to settle opioid claims


October 22, 2022: Walmart has agreed to pay Florida $215 million to settle claims that its pharmacies aided an opioid crisis in the state, according to a statement from Attorney General’s office.

Attorney General Ashley Moody, in an October 21 statement posted on the official website, said Walmart has also agreed to dispense 672,000 anti-overdose naloxone kits.

“Walmart has agreed to partner with the state in dispensing naloxone to law enforcement and first responders across Florida,” according to the statement.

“I’m grateful for Walmart stepping up and agreeing to partner with the state to provide law enforcement and first responders with much-needed naloxone. This will greatly help in our continuing mission to end the opioid crisis and save lives,” she said.

Opioid crisis

Opioids are a class of drugs that include medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone, commonly prescribed to treat pain, and illegal drugs such as heroin.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 2.1 million people in the US struggle with opioid use disorder.

Rates of opioid overdose deaths are rapidly increasing.  

Since 2010, the number of opioid overdose deaths has doubled from more than 21,000 to more than 42,000 in 2016, with the sharpest increase occurring among deaths related to illicitly made fentanyl and fentanyl analogues (synthetic opioids).

In 2020, 91,799 drug overdose deaths occurred in the US. The age-adjusted rate of overdose deaths increased by 31% from 2019 (21.6 per 100,000) to 2020 (28.3 per 100,000).

Opioids — mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone) — are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths, accounting for 82.3% of opioid-involved overdose deaths.

The agreement with Walmart is the latest in years of negotiations and litigation by Attorney General Moody.

Federal intervention

She has held major opioid distributors, manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies accountable for fuelling the opioid crisis.

The most promising development in opioid litigation has been the advent of suits brought by the federal government and dozens of states, counties, and cities. 

As the government itself is claiming injury and seeking restitution, it can repair social systems debilitated by opioid addiction. These suits avoid defences blaming opioid consumers or prescribers.

In May, Moody announced the closure of the state’s opioid litigation with a $680 million recovery from Walgreens after four weeks of trial.

$3.2 billion for remediation

In March, she obtained more than $870 million for opioid abatement from CVS Health Corporation, CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. and Allergan Plc.

Moody also secured a multibillion-dollar national settlement with McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp., and Johnson & Johnson, Inc. in February 2021. 

Florida also finalised a settlement with McKinsey & Company for $40 million that same month.

The state has secured more than $3.2 billion for remediation, with much of the funds secured from the 12 defendants in the state’s litigation going to cities and counties to fund local abatement efforts.

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