CVS Health accepts settlement of $5 billion opioid lawsuit

CVS Health announced a tentative settlement that would make it the first major pharmacy chain to reach a national settlement of lawsuits over its handling of prescriptions for strong and addictive opioid painkillers linked to an overdose outbreak.

The Woonsocket, Rhode Island company would pay about $5 billion over 10 years under a deal that, if accepted, would be one of the biggest settlements of the crisis. Other pharmacies, including Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart, have agreements with individual states.

CVS announced its proposed deal on Wednesday when it released its quarterly results. The company did not admit liability or wrongdoing and said non-financial conditions remain to be resolved.

“We are pleased to resolve these long-standing claims and putting them behind us is in the best interests of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” said Thomas Moriarty, CVS Chief Policy Officer and General Counsel. , in a press release. “We are committed to working with states, municipalities and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegitimate use of prescription opioids.”

The company has launched educational programs and installed safe drug disposal units in stores and police departments, among other measures to reduce opioid abuse.

In the lawsuits, governments said pharmacies were filling prescriptions they should have flagged as inappropriate.

Under the settlement plan, CVS would pay $4.9 billion to state and local governments and about $130 million to Native American tribes over the next decade. The exact amount would depend on how many government entities agree to the terms of the agreement.

The proposed settlement brings the national total of settlements finalized and reached between companies and governments to more than $45 billion. Under the terms of the agreements, most of the money is to be used to fight the ongoing outbreak.

Opioids have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States over the past two decades. Most deaths initially involved prescription drugs. As governments, doctors and corporations moved to make them harder to abuse and harder to obtain, people with opioid use disorders increasingly turned to heroin, which proved to be more lethal.

In recent years, opioid-related deaths have reached record highs of around 80,000 per year. Most of these deaths involve an illicitly produced version of the powerful lab-made drug fentanyl, which appears throughout the US illegal drug supply.

The settlement was announced as litigation over the role of pharmacies in the opioid crisis escalated. On Tuesday, 18 companies – most related to pharmacy – submitted reports to a judge overseeing opioid litigation detailing where they face lawsuits.

Only a handful of opioid settlements have had higher dollar figures than the CVS plan. Distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson this year finalized a combined settlement worth $21 billion, and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson finalized a $5 billion settlement.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and members of the Sackler family who own the company, have a proposed settlement that would involve up to $6 billion in cash plus company value, which would be turned into a new entity with its profits used to fight the epidemic. This plan was suspended by a court.


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