DOJ Slaps Walmart with a Massive Lawsuit Over Enabling the Opioid Crisis

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Posted: Dec 22, 2020 2:45 PM
DOJ Slaps Walmart with a Massive Lawsuit Over Enabling the Opioid Crisis

Source: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File

The Department of Justice has issued a lawsuit against Walmart for the company's alleged enabling of the opioid crisis through "hundreds of thousands of violations of the Controlled Substances Act." The violations allegedly occurred at Walmart pharmacies across the country. 

“It has been a priority of this administration to hold accountable those responsible for the prescription opioid crisis.  As one of the largest pharmacy chains and wholesale drug distributors in the country, Walmart had the responsibility and the means to help prevent the diversion of prescription opioids,” Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division Jeffrey Clark released in a statement Tuesday. “Instead, for years, it did the opposite — filling thousands of invalid prescriptions at its pharmacies and failing to report suspicious orders of opioids and other drugs placed by those pharmacies. This unlawful conduct contributed to the epidemic of opioid abuse throughout the United States. Today’s filing represents an important step in the effort to hold Walmart accountable for such conduct.”

According to DOJ, Walmart has been under investigation for years after knowingly filling "thousands of controlled substance prescriptions that were not issued for legitimate medical purposes or in the usual course of medical practice."

“Opioid addiction and abuse have devastated communities across our nation, and eastern North Carolina is no exception. Walmart’s failures only made these problems worse. For example, our office prosecuted a physician for illegal opioid distribution. A jury convicted him just last year, and he is currently serving a twenty-year prison sentence. As it turns out, that physician expressly directed patients to Walmart to have their opioid prescriptions filled," U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Robert Higdon Jr. said about the case. "Walmart’s own pharmacists reported concerns about the doctor up the corporate chain, but for years, Walmart did nothing—except continue to dispense thousands of opioid pills.  My office will continue to work with others in the Department to ensure that Walmart — and all others who had a role to play in this ongoing opioid crisis — are held responsible.”

According to the complaint, Walmart faces "civil penalties of up to $67,627 for each unlawful prescription filled and $15,691 for each suspicious order not reported," which could total billions of dollars. 

Since taking office in 2016, President Trump has made combatting the opioid crisis a top priority.