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Walgreens Boots Alliance will pay $683 million to settle with the state of Florida to resolve claims it contributed to the opioid epidemic.
In a statement Thursday, Walgreens said the agreement will “resolve all claims related to the distribution and dispensing of prescription opioid medications across the company’s pharmacies in the state.”
The $683 million settlement includes $620 million that Walgreens said will be paid “out to the State of Florida over 18 years, as well as a one-time payment of $63 million for attorneys’ fees.” Walgreens said the settlement includes “no admission of wrongdoing or liability by Walgreens.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the nationwide opioid crisis has led to more than a half million deaths from overdose in the last 20 years.
Investigations by state and federal attorneys as well as lawyers in private practices representing families of opioid victims have cited the role of distributors in the epidemic. A 2019 investigative report in the Washington Post said Walgreens “handled nearly one in five of the most addictive opioids” at the peak of the crisis surrounding the painkiller and acted as its “own distributor.”
For its part, Walgreens said it has taken “a number of actions to prevent and respond to the opioid crisis, while continuing to serve patients” as one of Florida’s largest healthcare providers. Those include providing patient education about safe opioid use and providing medication disposal kiosks available at 1,400 Walgreens stores.
“As the largest pharmacy chain in the state, we remain focused on and committed to being part of the solution, and believe this resolution is in the best interest of all parties involved and the communities we serve across Florida,” Walgreens Boots Alliance executive vice president and global chief legal officer Danielle Gray said in a statement. “Our pharmacists are dedicated healthcare professionals who live and work in the communities they serve, and play a critical role in providing education and resources to help combat opioid misuse and abuse.”
Florida is the first state to settle its opioid claims against major pharmacy chains including Walgreens and CVS Health, according to media reports in the state, which has collected more than $1 billion from these companies.