CVS, Walmart Reach $147.5 Million Opioid Settlement With West Virginia

CVS, Walmart Reach $147.5 Million Opioid Settlement With West Virginia
People walk by a CVS pharmacy store in New York on Nov. 17, 2021. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

CVS Health Corp. and Walmart Inc. have agreed to pay $147.5 million to settle West Virginia’s claims over their alleged roles in the state’s opioid crisis, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Tuesday.

CVS agreed to pay $82.5 million and Walmart agreed to pay approximately $65 million, according to the state.

West Virginia had been prepared to proceed to trial on Sept. 26 against the two companies, as well as Walgreens Boots Alliance.

The state had accused the pharmacy chains of fueling the deadly opioid epidemic through their allegedly lax oversight of prescription pills sold in the state.

Walgreens has not settled, and a trial has been rescheduled for June 2023.

“We believe that we have a very strong case against Walgreens,” Morrisey said at a news conference. “We’re going to pursue that quite vigorously.”

Kroger Co. will also be a defendant in the rescheduled June 2023 trial.

West Virginia has been particularly hard hit by the epidemic, with a per capita opioid mortality rate over three times the national average in 2020, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

CVS said that it will continue to defend itself in other opioid lawsuits, but believed that “putting these claims behind us” was the right decision in the West Virginia case.

“Our position remains that opioid prescriptions are written by doctors, not pharmacists, and that opioid medications are made and marketed by manufacturers, not pharmacies,” CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis said.

Walmart and Walgreens did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed against drugmakers, distributors, and pharmacies over the crisis.

The litigation has increasingly targeted pharmacy chains in recent months, after drug makers and distributors reached major nationwide settlements, including a $26 billion deal with the three leading drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson, addressing their liabilities.

Walgreens has resisted settlements in other opioid cases brought by state and local governments this year. It was the last defendant to settle a lawsuit over Florida’s opioid claims, and it was the sole defendant to go to trial over San Francisco’s opioid claims.

Walgreens was found liable for fueling opioid addiction in San Francisco, and the amount it must pay will be determined in a future trial.

Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart were found liable for contributing to the opioid crisis in two Ohio counties, and were ordered to pay $650 million in that case.

By Dietrich Knauth