Walmart is next in line on national opioid settlement, paying $3B+ for its role in epidemic
Following opioid-related settlements from CVS and Walgreens with states and other national groups, Walmart is now doing the same: not admitting any guilt but agreeing to pay more than $3 billion.
Walmart announced the settlement Tuesday morning, adding that it had agreed to “financial amounts and payment terms to resolve substantially all opioids-related lawsuits filed against the Company, as well as all potential claims that could be made against the Company, by states and political subdivisions and tribes,” per an SEC filing.
Walmart is settling amid accusations of how its pharmacies handled opioids, with the New York Attorney General’s office saying in a statement Tuesday that the company contributed to the US opioid crisis by failing to regulate opioid prescriptions at its stores.
The office added that Letitia James co-led a group of attorneys general, including those from California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio and Texas, among the 15 states that negotiated the settlement.
James pinned blame on Walmart by saying in a statement, “Pharmacies such as Walmart played an undeniable role in perpetuating opioids’ destruction.”
The settlement nets New York $116 million and will require “significant improvements in how Walmart’s pharmacies handle opioids.” The settlement is being sent to other states for review and approval, and James’ office added that the attorney general is optimistic that the settlement will gain the support of the required 43 states by the end of 2022, which would allow local governments to join on early next year.
The settlement also includes certain court-ordered requirements that Walmart would have to comply with, including flagging suspicious prescriptions and implementing oversight to prevent fraudulent prescriptions.
Walmart is utilizing two frameworks — aptly named the “State Settlement Framework” and the “Tribal Settlement Framework” — to settle almost all opioid claims that either have been made against Walmart or could be made against the grocery store giant for up to $3.1 billion. That amount also includes money set aside for “remediation of alleged harms” as well as attorneys’ fees.
Walmart also said that the $3.1 billion includes some amounts from previously agreed recent settlements — but not all.
Walmart said that if enough states agree to the framework and all other conditions were met, then the company would start making payments as soon as November 2023.
And as par for the course for settlements, the frameworks “include no admission of wrongdoing or liability by the Company.”
Hints of Walmart joining the settlement trickled out weeks ago, when Bloomberg tipped off that the superstore would pay out $3 billion to settle opioid claims — after CVS agreed to shell out more than $5 billion over the next decade and Walgreens settled on $4.8 billion over a 15-year period.
The settlement would be one of the largest in recent memory as part of the US opioid scandal, after drug distributors agreed to a multibillion-dollar settlement earlier this year. Under that settlement, AmerisourceBergen agreed to pay up to $6.1 billion, Cardinal will contribute up to $6 billion, and McKesson is on the hook for up to $7.4 billion over the next 18 years.