By CURT ANDERSON Associated Press
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Pharmacy chain Walgreens has reached a $683 million settlement with the state of Florida in a lawsuit accusing the company of improperly dispensing millions of painkillers that contributed to the opioid crisis, state officials said Thursday.
State Attorney General Ashley Moody said the deal was reached after four weeks of government evidence presented at trial. Walgreens was the 12th and final defendant to settle with Florida, which will net the state more than $3 billion to fight opioid addiction and overdoses.
“We now go into battle armed and ready to fight this man-made crisis,” Moody said at a news conference in Tampa. “I’m glad we were able to end this monumental litigation and move past the courtroom.”
Walgreens, based in Deerfield, Ill., said in a statement that the company did not admit wrongdoing in the deal, in which $620 million will be paid to the state over 18 years and a one-time sum of $63 million for attorney fees. Walgreens operates more than 9,000 stores in all 50 states, according to the company’s website. About 820 of these locations are in Florida.
OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma has reached a nationwide interim deal that includes $6 billion in cash from members of the Sackler family who own the company. In total, settlements, civil and criminal penalties nationwide since 2007 have totaled more than $45 billion, according to an Associated Press tally.
The Florida case hinged on accusations that while Walgreens distributed more than 4.3 billion total opioid pills in Florida from May 2006 to June 2021, more than half contained one or more opioid signals. easily recognizable alarms for abuse, fraud and addiction that the company should have noticed and acted on.
The opioid epidemic has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States over the past two decades, counting those from prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and generic oxycodone as well as illicit drugs such as heroin and illegally produced fentanyl.
In the same case, CVS Health Corp. and CVS Pharmacy Inc. agreed to pay the state $484 million. Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. agreed to pay $195 million and Allergan PLC over $134 million.
Florida has already won millions of dollars in opioid settlements involving McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., Johnson & Johnson Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp.