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US Pharmacy Chains Reach Tentative Opioid Settlement


FILE - Pills of oxycodone, a opioid painkiller, are seen.
FILE - Pills of oxycodone, a opioid painkiller, are seen.

Two of the largest U.S. pharmacy chains — CVS and Walgreens — are reported to have tentatively agreed to pay more than $10 billion to settle more than 3,000 state and local lawsuits involving the dispensing of opioid painkillers.

In a statement released Wednesday, CVS Health said it agreed it will pay approximately $5 billion — with $4.9 billion to states and political subdivisions and approximately $130 million to Native American tribes — over the next 10 years beginning in 2023.

In a similar statement, Walgreens said it would make $4.95 billion in remediation payments to be paid out over 15 years. The company said the settlement frameworks include no admission of wrongdoing or liability.

In the statement, CVS Health Chief Policy Officer and General Counsel Thomas Moriarty said, "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."

Both companies' statements included a list of initiatives undertaken to fight opioid abuse.

An earlier report said Walmart had also reached a tentative settlement, but a lawyer involved in the negotiations said those discussions are continuing.

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

If the settlements are finalized, they would mark the first nationwide deals with retail pharmacy companies. They follow nationwide opioid settlements with drugmakers and distributors totaling more than $33 billion.

Opioids are natural, synthetic, or semi-synthetic chemicals used to reduce the intensity of pain signals and feelings of pain. The class of drugs includes the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain medications available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and many others.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that from 1999 to 2020, more than 564,000 people in the United States died from overdoses involving an opioid, including prescription and illicit ones. They report 187 people in the U.S. continue to die from an opioid overdose every day.

The Associated Press and Reuters provided some information for this report.

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