Florida state lawyer Jim Webster called out pharmacy chain Walgreens in court on Monday, April 11th, for its role in the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.
Based on the evidence presented for the civil trial, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. supplied several billion opiate pills to local addicts and criminals, essentially filling one out of every four opioid prescriptions over two decades without bothering to check if the drugs were for legitimate medical use.
According to Webster’s statement, Walgreens was a last line of defense when it came to stopping the improper distribution and illegal use of opioid drugs. But instead, it was the very reason why addicts and dealers could get their hands on them.
Last Brand Standing
Walgreens is currently the last remaining defendant in the Pasco County Circuit court trial before Judge Kimberly Sharpe Byrd.
Previously, the Florida state government received nearly $878 million in settlements with several other pharmacy chains, namely Abbvie Inc. via its Allergan unit, CVS Health Corp., Endo International Plc., and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
But Walgreens is maintaining its innocence. In his opening statement, the company’s legal counsel Steve Derringer claimed that the chain did not ignore glaring red flags and had filled prescriptions made by physicians. He further stated that so many pills were prescribed because of the sheer number of drugs made out for pain medicine.
In response to the accusation that Walgreens needed to be held guilty for more than 40,000 deaths from opioid overdose over twenty years, Derringer declared that they were not to blame. Indeed, he cited others who should be held culpable for the Floridian opioid crisis. Among those he accused are several drug manufacturers who gave false declarations on addiction risk, officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who approved the sale and use of opioids as solutions for chronic pain, and even physicians who made, in his opinion, “unnecessary” prescriptions.
A Prior Settlement
Previously, Walgreens claimed that it was immune from opioid-related suits thanks to a settlement of just $3,000 made with the Florida state government back in 2012. The company was under investigation for its record-keeping policies and initiatives to prevent the diversion of opioids to illegal use.
Last month, however, presiding Judge Byrd ruled that, since the 2012 settlement only addressed a single record-keeping violation, it did not exempt or protect Walgreens from future prosecution.