ALBANY, NY (WENY) – Last week, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart agreed to pay billions of dollars in settlement payments nationwide for their role in contributing to the opioid epidemic. New York State will receive up to $116 million in the settlement from Walmart.
According to the state Attorney General’s Office, New York State’s settlement negotiations with CVS, and Walgreens are ongoing. And earlier this month, the New York State Attorney General’s Office also secured more than $500 million in settlement money from the pharmaceutical company, Teva.
Dessa Bergen-Cico, a professor of Public Health and Coordinator of Addiction Services Studies at Syracuse University, said there a few key components to consider when it comes to how the settlement money will be distributed to local communities.
“We have to attack it from a very comprehensive primary universal prevention and selected indicated support for people who are in treatment and that includes strengthening the workforce and providing direct treatment services to those people who are struggling with addiction,” she said.
Litigation against big pharmacy companies like CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart started in 2017. State and local governments nationwide have filed over 3,000 lawsuits alleging that big pharmacy companies misrepresented the risks of opioids and failed to properly monitor suspicious prescription orders that were being diverted to illegal trafficking.
And Bergen-Cico said that big pharmacy companies do have a responsibility to properly monitor prescription purchases by paying attention to possible red flags.
“They have a responsibility to keep a handle on that because we’ve known since the mid-to-late 90’s that this is a significant issue,” she said.
Walmart stated that they’re agreement to settlement payment, “does not include any admission of liability” and that they strongly dispute the allegations regarding this litigation.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 56,000 people died from an opioid overdose in 2020, which is more than 18 times the rate of opioid overdose deaths since 2013.
Details about how the settlement money will be distributed to local communities is coming soon, according to New York State’s Attorney General Office.
Bergen-Cico said the settlement money could vary per county in how its used. She said the most immediate need that could be addressed with the settlement money is making treatment available and accessible on demand and expanding the workforce.