The attorney general’s office in Tennessee has filed a lawsuit against Walgreens, claiming the drugstore chain did nothing to stop the abuse of opioids it dispensed, which in turn added to the prescription painkiller addiction crisis in the state. According to the lawsuit, Walgreen’s lack of controls and detection violated the state’s consumer protection act.
The suit alleges that for 14 years, Walgreens pharmacies dispensed oxycodone and hydrocodone pills without doing anything to stop the potential abuse of these medications. The pharmacies were said to have dispensed over 1.1 billion of these pills, with some locations dispensing so many pills that every single person in the town would have had to be taking the medications for the numbers to make sense.
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III claimed in a statement that this was not accidental and that Walgreens ignored clear signs that the drugs were potentially being abused. Walgreens is accused of not giving its pharmacists training in spotting signs of medication abuse and that the locations in Tennessee were actually dispensing opioids to people from several states. In turn, Walgreens released a statement noting that they had not made the pills or given them to prescribing doctors, who were, at the heart of the opioid crisis.
In one example, according to the lawsuit, one doctor in one Tennessee city prescribed over 100,000 pills in less than a year, with about 20 percent of the prescriptions written for patients from outside Tennessee, and Walgreens filled all of these without any alarm bells going off. Walgreens is also accused of filling opioid prescriptions written for children, including toddlers over 2 years old, and prescriptions for dosages well above the normal maximum dose.
The lawsuit is just one of thousands filed by governments and other agencies as a result of an addiction and overdose crisis that has killed over half a million Americans over the past 20 years. Pharmaceutical companies such as Purdue Pharma and drug distributors like AmerisourceBergen have formed the bulk of the defendants in these cases, usually settling for billions of dollars.