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Retailers Sued Over Opioid Crisis

CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart, and Walgreens are among the US retailers who have been named as plaintiffs in what some are predicting to be the biggest civil trial in history. A lawsuit filed in federal court on Friday, January 3, 2020, is seeking billions of dollars in restitution from corporations that flooded the market with prescription opioid painkillers. The lawsuit consists of nearly 2,000 individual cases brought by cities, counties, and Native American tribes across the U.S. The claim is set to go to trial in October.

According to the lawsuit, the named retail stores did not abide by laws that mandate pharmacies alert the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of suspicious orders. The New York Times, in a piece covering the litigation, highlights one 2011 incident in which a Walgreens employee, charged with reviewing suspicious drug orders, noticed an order for 3,271 bottles of oxycodone to be shipped to a pharmacy in Port Richey, Florida–a town that was home to just 2,831 residents. In an email that is now part of the evidence in the lawsuit, that employee wrote, “I don’t know how they can even house this many bottles, to be honest.” Nothing was done to flag or stop the orders, and the store received another massive order the very next month.

The article also highlights an Ohio gynecologist who wrote an alarmingly high volume of painkiller prescriptions –hundreds of thousands of orders for OxyContin, Roxicet, Percocet, and Opana. He continued writing the prescriptions after at least eight of his patients overdosed and died. A large amount of the doctor’s patients filled their prescriptions at a local Rite Aid near his office. However, not only did the Rite Aid fail to report any suspicious activity stemming from the unusually high volume of prescriptions, the store increased its supply of opioids in order to meet the surge in demand from the clinic.

The retail stores sometimes would actually flag suspicious orders, yet they would fail to take any further action such as alerting the DEA, even when they were required to do so by law. One Walgreens employee created lists of suspicious orders that ran thousands of pages, but the pharmacy chain shipped them without further review. One executive at CVS had “D.E.A. Compliance Coordinator” listed as part of her employment but admitted upon investigation that it was not her real job.  According to the lawsuit, the majority of the actual compliance was assigned to warehouse workers at distribution centers who appeared to have no formal training in monitoring and rarely took any action that would hold up orders.

The lawsuit also alleges that the actions (and inactions) of the retail stores created a “public nuisance,” referring to the ongoing crisis that has placed enormous pressure on emergency medical services, neonatal intensive care, foster care, detox and rehabilitation programs, and the criminal justice system. 

Gilman & Bedigian

Have you or a loved one been a victim of the current opioid epidemic that has been sweeping the country? Call Gilman & Bedigian today at 1-800-529-6162 to learn what you can do to begin recovering from your losses.

About the Author

Briggs Bedigian
Briggs Bedigian

H. Briggs Bedigian (“Briggs”) is a founding partner of Gilman & Bedigian, LLC.  Prior to forming Gilman & Bedigian, LLC, Briggs was a partner at Wais, Vogelstein and Bedigian, LLC, where he was the head of the firm’s litigation practice.  Briggs’ legal practice is focused on representing clients involved in medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. 


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