The Commonwealth of Kentucky has announced that it has filed a lawsuit against six Walgreens corporate entities (collectively known as “Walgreens”) for allegedly aggravating the opioid crises that it helped create. The Attorney General claims that Walgreens has played a “dual role” in the opioid chain of supply and demand by acting as a distributor and delivering opioids to its pharmacies as dispensers of the drugs that fill narcotic prescriptions at huge profits. The lawsuit also alleges that Walgreens knowingly and willingly ignored its own internal safeguards that are intended to protect the public and monitor customers’ consumption of opioids.
Legitimate Medical Use?
Originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration for purposes of management of short term surgical and trauma pain and end-of-life care, opioids are now widely used in the United States for treatment of chronic pain. In the Walgreens opioid lawsuit, the attorney general further alleged that “Walgreens filled massive and/or suspicious orders of unusual size, orders deviating substantially from a normal pattern, and orders of an unusual frequency, from its own pharmacies for prescription opioids.” The same paragraph in the lawsuit goes on to aver that the “orders were for massive quantities of opioid drugs throughout the Commonwealth.” Walgreens is accused of failing to report the suspicious orders to authorities and failing to halt excessive and suspicious shipments.” The attorney general concluded that the “orders were for such large quantities of narcotic medication, that there could be no associated legitimate medical purpose for their use.”
1,000 Fatalities a Year in Kentucky
Kentucky’s lawsuit was filed in Boone County. Walgreens is the second largest pharmacy company in the United States. As per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the nation involve opioids. Since 2014, more than 1,000 people a year have died in opioid overdoses in Kentucky. Walgreens’ sales reportedly exceeded $33 billion in the first two quarters of 2018.
Inadequate Reporting Allegations
Pharmacies that operate in Kentucky have all of the tools that they need for monitoring data as per the exact number of opioids, dosages, types and customer information. They’re required by law to report suspicious orders of these drugs to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Pharmacies are also required to report customers who might travel long distances to procure the drugs along with physicians who prescribe them outside of the scope of their usual practices. Walgreens is accused of failing to adequately report such information.
What Kentucky Wants
The Walgreens opioid lawsuit is seeking to accomplish two objectives. First, the Commonwealth wants to stop the overprescribing of opioids and the filling of questionable prescriptions. Next, it wants to have Walgreens held financially accountable for the wide range of services that Kentucky has been compelled to provide that are associated with opioid abuse. Those purportedly include the “increased financial burden of public health insurance; dispatching emergency services; investigating and prosecuting increased drug-related crimes; incarcerating perpetrators; supervising and rehabilitating the addicted, preventing; investigating and treating overdoses; providing foster care for children whose parents are in prison or dead from overdosing, or simply cannot care for them due to addiction; assembling necessary response teams; and tending to the infirm, dying and deceased.” Additional services are expected to be needed due to the increasing number of babies being born that are already addicted to opioids.
Walgreens hasn’t commented on the lawsuit, and it is not yet time for the defendants to answer or otherwise plead to it. The lawsuit is the latest in a series of cases of this nature that have been filed nationally against drug manufacturers and pharmacies.
Learn more about Drug Safety Lawsuits.