The Justice Department on Tuesday sued retail giant Walmart, accusing it of reducing the country’s opioid crisis and ignoring thousands of suspected prescriptions and repeated warnings from its own pharmacists.
Walmart “knowingly violated well-established regulations requiring controlled-substance prescriptions to be checked to ensure they were valid” and required “pharmacists to process a high quantity of prescriptions as soon as possible To do ”the suit alleged.
By doing so, “Walmart made its pharmacies available to sell unusually large amounts of controlled substances, and other products to customers who came to Walmart’s stores simply because Walmart pharmacies were easily controlled by these Provides substances, “according to the federal complaint.
The retailer’s own compliance unit “denies that Walmart asked to illegally fill controlled substance prescriptions,” but the unit withdrew that information from pharmacists for years and gave them opioids based on illegal prescriptions. Allowed to continue delivery. The suit said.
“Walmart’s pharmacies violated the law by filling thousands of prescriptions for controlled substances that Walmart’s pharmacists knew were invalid,” Jeffrey Boser Clarke, acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, said on a call with reporters .
“Walmart filled out thousands of controlled substance prescriptions when it knew that the prescriptions were invalid. And as a wholesale distributor for its own pharmacies, Walmart systematically violated its legal obligation to detect suspicious orders for controlled substances. “
Walmart operates more than 5,000 pharmacies nationwide.
U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Florida Maria Chepa Lopez told reporters on the call that the “pill mill” doctors told patients at Walmart to fill prescriptions that would not be filled elsewhere.
“Many of these prescription drugs would never have hit the streets if Walmart’s pharmacies had complied with their obligations,” she said.
Walmart said the company has “always empowered our pharmacists to refuse to fill problematic opioids prescriptions” and has refused to fill “hundreds of thousands” of suspected prescriptions.
The retailer said in an email that it had sent “tens of thousands of investigative stops” about suspected doctors to the DAA and has “blocked thousands of suspected doctors” from filling its prescriptions through Walmart pharmacies.
“By making pharmacists and pharmacies demand second-guessing doctors, the Justice Department is putting pharmacists and pharmacies in the middle of a rock and a tough spot with state health regulators, who say they already fill opioid prescriptions Are denied, ”the company said.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Health Statistics, there have been more than 81,000 deaths from May 2019 to May in deaths due to synthetic opioids, the highest amount of drug recorded in 12 months.
Over the past several years, Walmart, along with Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, has faced numerous lawsuits across the country, alleging that the chain has “aggressively boosted its revenue, increased profits, and prescription pains.” Has sought to increase its share in the preventive market “illegally and due to the increase in the amount of opioids they sell,” according to a complaint filed in an Ohio federal court this year.
A separate lawsuit filed in West Virginia this year alleges that “Walmart knew, or should have known, that opioids were being monitored in the state and that they should have detected, reported and rejected suspicious orders . ” But, the complaint is that, “on information and belief, it was not.”
“Pharmacists are the last line of defense against prescription opioid diversion,” said Assistant Attorney General Daniel Faith of the DOJ’s Consumer Protection Branch at the Food and Drug Law Institute’s annual enforcement conference last week. “But a lot of pharmacies [for] The responsibility is very long “
And pharmacies have a link in the drug delivery chain. Pharmaceutical manufacturing giant Purdue Pharmacy has been indicted by the Department of Justice and dozens of state and local governments in separate lawsuits. One, accused by Utah, of representing “chronic pain as useful in the treatment of long-term pain and at the risk of being less addictive” for the purpose of “misleading and inappropriate marketing”.
“Prescription opioids are no less addictive than heroin. No other drug used regularly for non-fatal conditions kills patients so often, ”the suit said. The drugmaker was forced to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy to dispose of thousands of suits, pleading guilty in federal court in New Jersey to fraud and conspiracy, including criminal penalties of $ 3.544 billion and an additional $ 2 in criminal expenses. Billion was involved. It also agreed to pay $ 2.8 billion in civil penalties. The Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, signed a $ 225 million settlement in civil damages.
Walmart argued in a lawsuit filed in October against the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration that the prescriptions were “written by doctors that the DEA and state regulators were able to prescribe those prescriptions for the first time.” The company is requesting a federal declaration that the suit has no basis to seek civil damages from the company. The trial is going on.
The Justice Department is seeking civil penalties that can run into billions of dollars.