Walgreens has faced heavy legal pressure as a result of its actions in the opioid crisis. The large pharmacy chain helped opioid makers flood the country with billions of tablets. In addition to facing a large multidistrict litigation brought by opioid users and their families, states are beginning to turn up the pressure on Walgreens. Recently, the State of Michigan filed a lawsuit against Walgreens under a state law that is used against drug traffickers. While Walgreens has taken steps to clean up its act, it still faces large liability based on its past actions.
Not only are the opioid manufacturers in the legal crosshairs, but those who sold opioids to the public are also facing legal ramifications. Pharmacy chains such as Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens are being sued by numerous plaintiffs. These drugstores are alleged to have
States attorney general have already settled with Purdue Pharmaceutical for a total of $12 billion. Other opioid makers are also settling state lawsuits. However, states still need to recoup the money that they have spent due to the opioid crisis. These costs can include healthcare and other forms of treatment. The total has added up to billions of dollars for the states. As a result, they are trying to go after every entity that was in the chain that fed billions of opioid pills to the public.
Michigan Allows for Lawsuits Against Drug Dealers
In Michigan, there is a law that is called the Drug Dealer Liability Act. It is meant to hold those who are dealing drugs civilly accountable for the consequences and costs of their actions. Anyone who is caught dealing controlled substances can be made to pay civil damages. Normally, this law allows a family to sue the drug dealer who sold the product. This law does not require an injury in order for someone to file suit. In December 2019, the state filed a lawsuit against Walgreens and a number of other companies that filled opioid prescriptions, alleging that they filled the prescriptions without any oversight, thereby allowing the pills to be diverted for illegal use.
The lawsuit seeks a variety of damages from these companies. One of the areas where Michigan is trying to recover costs is for the money that it has had to spend in increased law enforcement costs. Not only are there the costs of arresting, trying and incarcerating people for drug offenses, but addicts also commit offenses to get money to fund their addiction.
The Costs Associated with Opioids
Many people may not understand the full scope of the costs that are associated with the opioid epidemic. Children are born addicted to drugs and either require special education or medical treatment. In addition, there are costs for the rehabilitation of addicts and education about drugs. These costs can add up to hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Considering that the opioid epidemic is well into its second decade, the total of these costs run into the billions of dollars for a state as large as Michigan. It is possible that Michigan can recover over a billion dollars in its lawsuits against these companies.
Generally, Michigan law makes it difficult to sue drug manufacturers for products that have received FDA approval as did the opioid painkillers. However, in using this law as a basis for the lawsuit, Michigan is seeking a creative solution as a way of holding Walgreens and other companies that recklessly flooded the market with opioids responsible for what they did.
Michigan, like many other Midwestern states, is still struggling with the costs of the opioid crisis. Between 2006 to 2012, over three billion opioid pills were distributed in Michigan. Roughly 2,000 people in Michigan die each year from opioid overdoses. Those who become addicted to the substance find their lives ruined and there are strong impacts on their families.
Michigan has been slow to spring into action and sue the pharmacies who were complicit in the spread of opioids. The state just had control of its government change parties and Republicans have been less aggressive in taking legal action against these companies. In fact, Michigan was the next to last state to take some sort of legal action regarding opioids even though it has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic.
Walgreens’ Problems Mount
Walgreens already paid $80 million to the federal government in 2016 to settle a complaint that it failed to detect irregular and suspicious prescriptions that were written by physicians. Walgreens was alleged to have simply filled these prescriptions with little to no questions asked. At the time, Walgreens changed its corporate policy to become more deliberate about dispensing painkillers. Even still, there have been instances in which Walgreens has acted to fill prescriptions under questionable circumstances. The number of opioid deaths in Michigan did not decrease for several years after the pharmacies tightened their policies.
In addition to recovering costs of the opioid epidemic, these lawsuits are also valuable from a public policy perspective. All companies that are associated with opioids have had to rethink the way that they sell and market the product. This has resulted in more restrictive policies about the distribution of opioids, and the number of opioid deaths has begun to plateau after rising uncontrollably for years. However, there is still a ways to go in making a dent in the problem.
For Walgreens, there are other issues at play that go beyond these lawsuits. Currently, there is talk that Walgreens may be for sale as the company has struggled financially in recent years. However, the scope of the company’s possible opioid liability has dissuaded some potential buyers or reduced the price that they are willing to pay. With the company facing many lawsuits and additional ones on the way, it is unknown exactly how much the company will have to pay. Most drug companies have chosen to settle these lawsuits, and Walgreens has also shown signs of wanting to limit its risk.
If your state has a law similar to the Michigan law on its books, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against the pharmacy that filled your prescription for opioids if you have suffered from addiction. Contact the Law Offices of Sadaka Associates for a complementary evaluation of your case.