Walgreens Pays Settlement With Contributions to the Opioid Epidemic

Walgreens Pays Settlement With Contributions to the Opioid Epidemic

There is no one person or entity completely responsible for the years that the opioid epidemic has raged through our nation. However, Walgreens is one entity that is paying up for its part in this terrible crisis.

The opioid crisis is a public health crisis in which the widespread and increasing use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs has led to a substantial increase in opioid overdoses and related deaths. The crisis is multi-faceted and includes variables like the over-prescription of opioid painkillers and the availability of illegal opioids like heroin and fentanyl. Additionally, there is a lack of access to addiction treatment and overdose prevention resources. The opioid crisis has had devastating effects on communities across the United States and around the world. It has become increasingly a major focus of public health and policy efforts.

In the last decade, the opioid epidemic has been severe to say the least. It has caused a public health crisis and a significant increase in opioid overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of opioid overdose deaths in the United States reached a peak in 2017. It was reported that there were more than 47,000 deaths. Subsequently, the high levels have remained since. The epidemic has affected communities across the country and has had a devastating impact on individuals, families, and society as a whole.

Contributions Made by Walgreens

Walgreens has been a target over the opioid epidemic. The claim is that their pharmacists have added fuel to the fire so to speak. Walgreens disclosed a $3.7 billion loss to cover its share of a larger, global settlement. Many other pharmacies are being targeted as well. This was the first net loss reported in many years for the company.

The settlement was agreed to in November of 2022. They paid $13 billion in total. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they estimate the nationwide opioid crisis has led to more than a half million deaths from overdose in the last 20 years. To put it into perspective, top pharmacies like Walmart, CVS and Walgreens have a combined more than 23,000 U.S. pharmacies.

Leading the charge of these massive global settlements are attorneys representing families of those who have lost a loved one to opioid addiction. They have cited the responsibility of the pharmacies in their role of prescribing the pain killer.

What Are Opioids

Opioids are a class of drugs that are used to relieve pain, an area also known as pain killers. Specifically, they work by binding to specific proteins in the brain and spinal cord called opioid receptors, reducing the perception of pain. Opioids can be naturally occurring, such as morphine, or synthetic, such as fentanyl. Some common opioids include:

  • Oxycodone (OxyContin)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl

Medical personnel have used opioids because they are very effective in managing acute pain. The obvious downside is that they can be highly addictive and can lead to overdose and death when taken in large doses or combined with other substances. The widespread misuse of prescription opioids in the last two decades has contributed to the current opioid epidemic.

The opioid epidemic got out of control due to multiple factors including:

  • Overprescription of opioid painkillers by healthcare providers
  • Deceptive marketing by pharmaceutical companies
  • Lack of government regulation and oversight
  • Increase in illegal drug trafficking, including counterfeit pills and heroin.

These factors contributed to widespread misuse and abuse of opioids, leading to a significant rise in opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Subsequently, opioids have been investigated and settlements have come about. Tighter regulations and use of alternative medications are warranted. Nothing will bring back the loved ones whose lives have been lost, but many families are looking to hold someone accountable.

Something that is not widely known about opioids is that they have a long history of use, both medically and recreationally. For thousands of years, opioids have been used for pain relief. The opium poppy has been cultivated for medicinal and recreational purposes for centuries. Keep in mind that the current opioid crisis is not a new phenomenon, but rather the latest chapter in a long history of opioid use and abuse. Over the years, this current epidemic has affected many populations and regions, regardless of age, race, gender, or socioeconomic status.

Final Thoughts

Walgreens has agreed to make a settlement with regard to their contribution to the opioid epidemic over the past decades. However, it does very little to help those who continue to grieve. The medical professionals are reigning back on administering these types of medications, but it remains difficult to keep it off the streets.