(HealthDay News) — Years of litigation over the opioid epidemic could end soon, as the national pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens announced Wednesday that each company has agreed to a nearly $5 billion settlement.
While neither of the companies admitted wrongdoing, the settlements are part of the fight over the drug industry’s role in the epidemic that has led to 500,000 US deaths in the past 20 years, the Associated Press reported. The pharmacies’ role was in filling prescriptions they should have flagged as inappropriate, according to lawsuits from various state governments.
Most of the money will go toward programs that expand treatment for people with addiction, provide overdose antidotes, and support prevention efforts. Exactly how much the pharmacies pay will depend on how many governments join the settlement, the AP reported.
“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,” Thomas Moriarty, CVS chief policy officer and general counsel, said in a statement. “We are committed to working with states, municipalities, and [Native American] tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegitimate use of prescription opioids.”
CVS announced its settlement plan while submitting its earnings report, while Walgreens shared its details in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation, we remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and well-being of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis,” Walgreens said in a statement.
Completed opioid settlements so far have reached more than $50 billion. Earlier this year AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, all of whom are distributors, settled for a combined $21 billion. Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson settled for $5 billion. The Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, which make OxyContin, have proposed to settle for up to $6 billion in cash plus the value of the company, the AP reported.