Walgreens and CVS Agree to Pay a Combined $10B Settlement in Opioid Case

Walgreens and CVS have agreed, tentatively, to pay $10 billion in order to settle lawsuits brought upon them by both state and local governments. The lawsuits allege the retailers improperly handled opioid painkiller prescriptions.

Indeed, more than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed by US states, cities, and counties, accusing opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies, of underemphasizing potential addiction risk and failing to prevent their products from being used illegally.

CVS has revealed that once a settlement is finalized, it will pay approximately $5 billion to states, over 10 years, starting sometime next year. Walgreens will pay their share—also $5 billion—in similar remediation payments over a 15-year time span.

The lawsuit is important, of course, as the US has counted at least 500,000 opioid overdose deaths in the last twenty years, with more than 80,000 last year. According to US government data reported in 2020, an estimated 9.5 million Americans (age 12 and up) have misused opioids. This includes approximately 9.3 million prescription painkiller abusers and another 902,000 heroin users.

More importantly, though, synthetic opioids—specifically powerful prescription medications like fentanyl—are responsible for two-thirds of 100,000 (plus) drug overdose deaths in the United States over a 12-month period starting in April of 2020. That is a shocking increase of 49% from the year prior. This is according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Big-box retailer Walmart agreed also to pay a sum of $3 billion to settle other, similar lawsuits. This agreement is also tentative, as it is waiting on all states, counties, and cities involved to agree to the terms of the deal.