CVS and Walgreens, two of the largest pharmacy chains in the country, have agreed to pay $5 billion each to settle lawsuits throughout the country over allegations of mishandling opioid prescriptions. The companies announced the settlement plan through government filings but need the approval of the myriad of plaintiffs before the deal can go into effect, The New York Times reports.
These settlements can potentially put an end to the decades of lawsuits regarding the role of the drug industry in the opioid epidemic, NPR reports. Opioid overdose was the cause of 80,000 deaths in 2021 alone and approximately 9.5 million Americans reported misusing opioids in 2020, according to CNN. Opioids are painkillers that can be illegal, like heroin, or prescribed by doctors, including morphine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone.
Previously, the companies tried fighting the lawsuits in court; they were unsuccessful, however, when a federal judge ordered them to pay $650 million to two Ohio counties in August, the Times continues. The jury explained that the companies seemed to turn a blind eye to alarming pill quantities and continued to dispense.
CVS and Walgreens have specified that their willingness to pay settlements does not equate to an admission of wrongdoing. Along with CVS and Walgreens, Walmart has agreed to pay $3 billion in settlements as well.
CVS general counsel Thomas Moriarty said in a statement, "We are committed to working with states, municipalities, and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegitimate use of prescription opioids."