Walgreens Contributed To San Francisco Opioid Crisis: Judge

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal decide dominated Wednesday that Walgreens might be held answerable for contributing to San Francisco’s opioid disaster for over-dispensing extremely addictive medication for years with out correct oversight and failing to determine and report suspicious orders as required by legislation.

San Francisco Metropolis Legal professional David Chiu stated the pharmacy chain “continually violated what they were required to do under the federal Controlled Substances Act,” failing to trace opioid prescriptions, stopping pharmacists from vetting prescriptions and “nor did they see the many red flags of physicians and others who were dramatically over-prescribing.”

“Pharmacists were pressured to fill, fill, fill,” he stated, “and as a result, Walgreens filled our streets with opioids.”

U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer dominated that for 15 years, Walgreens distributed lots of of 1000’s of drugs, ultimately contributing to the town’s hospitals being overwhelmed with opioid sufferers, libraries being pressured to shut due to syringe-clogged bogs, and syringes littering youngsters’s playgrounds in San Francisco.

A Walgreens spokesman stated the chain is disillusioned within the final result, which he stated just isn’t supported by the info and the legislation.

“As we have said throughout this process, we never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we distribute them to the ‘pill mills’ and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis,” spokesman Fraser Engerman stated in an announcement. “The plaintiff’s attempt to resolve the opioid crisis with an unprecedented expansion of public nuisance law is misguided and unsustainable. We look forward to the opportunity to address these issues on appeal.”

San Francisco in 2018 sued Walgreens and drug producers and distributors over the town’s worsening opioid epidemic, saying they created a “public nuisance” by flooding the town with prescription opioids. All the opposite defendants beforehand settled with the town for a complete of $114 million, together with $54 million that opioid makers Allergan and Teva agreed to pay on the eve of closing arguments within the trial, leaving Walgreens as the only defendant.

Wednesday’s ruling didn’t embrace a ruling on financial damages, which can be decided in a future trial.

The opioid epidemic has been linked to greater than 500,000 deaths within the U.S. over the previous 20 years, counting these from prescription painkillers similar to OxyContin and generic oxycodone in addition to illicit medication similar to heroin and illegally produced fentanyl.

The surge in deaths has led to greater than 3,000 lawsuits filed by state and native governments, Native American tribes, unions, hospitals and different entities in state and federal courts over the toll of opioids. In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency final 12 months within the Tenderloin neighborhood, saying one thing needed to be accomplished in regards to the excessive focus of drug sellers and other people consuming medication in public.

The town legal professional’s workplace says San Francisco noticed an almost 500% enhance in opioid-related overdose deaths between 2015 and 2020 and that on a typical day, roughly 1 / 4 of visits on the Zuckerberg San Francisco Normal Hospital Emergency Division are opioid-related.

In 2020, 712 folks died of drug overdoses, in contrast with 257 individuals who died of COVID-19, based on the town well being division.

A excessive share of an estimated 7,800 homeless folks in San Francisco — a lot of whom pitch tents within the Tenderloin — are combating persistent dependancy or extreme psychological sickness, typically each. Some folks rant within the streets, nude and in want of medical assist.

Pharmacy chains have been sued much less typically than opioid makers or wholesalers that distribute prescription drugs extra broadly. In a single groundbreaking case, a federal jury in Ohio final 12 months discovered CVS, Walgreens and Walmart recklessly distributed large quantities of ache drugs in two Ohio counties.

In Could, Walgreens reached a $683 million settlement with the state of Florida in a lawsuit accusing the corporate of improperly dishing out tens of millions of painkillers that contributed to the opioid disaster. Walgreens didn’t admit wrongdoing in its settlement with Florida and can make funds to the state over 18 years.

The corporate additionally faces litigation in Alabama, Michigan and New Mexico, amongst different states.

Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. runs a community of round 9,000 drugstores in america. Walgreens and different prescription drug distributors have confronted a slew of lawsuits over the opioid disaster.

Related Press author Tom Murphy in Indianapolis contributed to this report.