In earlier blogs, we discussed some major lawsuits surrounding the nation’s opioid addiction crisis. Big pharma companies like Purdue have been forced into bankruptcy over their alleged roles in furthering painkiller dependencies over the past decade. And now, another corporate giant is facing serious legal action over their possible participation in this deadly epidemic. According to new headlines released this week, the United States Department of Justice has filed suit against Walmart for violations tied to the opioid crisis.
Several major news organizations have put this story front and center on their sites. The allegations are that Walmart broke the law by filling thousands of invalid opioid prescriptions. They are also accused of failing to report suspicious orders of painkillers, which furthered the epidemic. All in all, the corporate retail giant could be forced to pay billions if they are found guilty.
The DOJ’s Acting Assistant Attorney General of their Civil Division, Jeffrey Bossert Clark, went on record discussing the nature of the suit. It is one that he believes has a lot of merit and can easily lead to a guilty verdict.
“As one of the largest pharmacy chains and wholesale drug distributors in the country, Walmart had the responsibility and the means to help prevent the diversion of prescription opioids,” Bossert Clark told the press. “Instead, for years, it did the opposite – filling thousands of invalid prescriptions at its pharmacies and failing to report suspicious orders of opioids and other drugs placed by those pharmacies.”
Walmart, of course, hit back hard, acknowledging the suit and criticizing the team that filed it. “The U.S. Department of Justice has invented a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors, and is riddled with factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents taken out of context,” their statement read. Walmart spokesmen also said that the company had sent the DEA tens of thousands of investigative leads and blocked thousands of questionable doctors from having their opioid prescriptions filled at company pharmacies.
The lawsuit strongly contends what Walmart is now claiming. The DOJ believes that little was done to share problematic prescription orders with their compliance units. According to stats presented, Walmart reported only 204 “suspicious prescription orders” to authorities across four years out of an estimated 37 million shipments.
Financial penalties are tacked in throughout the suit, with offenses dating back to 2013. As mentioned before, the total payout could equal billions if Walmart were to be found guilty. It is very clear that they will not go down without a fight and a victory on either side will set an interesting precedent. Ultimately, is it a corporate pharmacy’s responsibility to police prescriptions or should the blame lie with the doctors themselves? We will certainly be watching closely to see how justice prevails.