CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart have agreed to pay about $13.8 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits accusing the pharmacy chains of mishandling opioid painkillers.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Walgreens disclosed that it had agreed to pay about $5.7 billion over 15 years. CVS said Wednesday it had agreed to pay about $5 billion over 10 year and Walmart has agreed to pay $3.1 billion, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Neither company admitted wrongdoing.
CVS, Walgreens and Walmart are the three largest retail pharmacies in the country by market share.
“We are pleased to resolve these longstanding claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” CVS’s general counsel, Thomas Moriarty, said in a statement. The company did not admit wrongdoing.
Walgreens said in its SEC filing that it “continues to believe it has strong legal defenses” and will defend itself against any future lawsuits not covered by the settlement.
In more than 3,300 lawsuits, beginning in 2017, state and local governments accused drugmakers of downplaying the risks of their opioid pain medicines. Pharmacies were accused of ignoring red flags that prescriptions were being diverted into illegal trafficking.
Overdoses involving opioids, including prescription pills and heroin, surged further during the Covid pandemic, increasing 38% in 2020 over the previous year and another 15% in 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.