Tennessee files suit against Walgreens over opioid sales + 4 recent opioid stories

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III is suing Walgreens and accusing the pharmacy chain of creating a public nuisance by illegally selling and distributing opioids, according to an Aug. 3 news release. 

There were more than 6 million painkiller prescriptions in the state in 2018, and 1,304 people died from opioid overdoses the same year, according to the state health department's website

Census data shows the state's population is nearly 7 million, and between 2006 and 2020, Walgreens dispensed more than 1.1 billion opioid prescriptions, the attorney general said. 

"Walgreens did not flood the State of Tennessee with opioids by accident," Mr. Slatery said in a statement. "Rather, the fuel that Walgreens added to the fire of the opioid epidemic was the result of knowing — or willfully ignorant — corporate decisions. Walgreens ignored numerous red flags and failed to detect and prevent the abuse and diversion of dangerous narcotics."

Company spokesperson Fraser Engerman denied these allegations.

"Walgreens never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we distribute them to the pain clinics and 'pill mills' that fueled this crisis," Mr. Engerman told Becker's.

Four more recent stories about the opioid epidemic making headlines: 

1. Florida launched an opioid recovery program Aug. 3, which the state piloted in one county, Palm Beach, and is now making statewide, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis's website. The state is also hiring Courtney Phillips, MD, as the director of opioid recovery. 

So far in 2022, Florida has reported more than 2,000 fatal opioid overdoses, according to the news release. 

"Our state and communities did not choose this epidemic, but today we choose to treat this medical and psychiatric illness like any other, with access, evidence based care, and lifelong comprehensive treatment," Dr. Phillips said in a statement.

2. AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson agreed to settle allegations of creating the opioid epidemic in West Virginia for more than $400 million, TV station ZWSA reported Aug. 1. The pharmaceutical companies did not admit to any wrongdoing.

3. Allergan reached a tentative deal to pay $2.37 billion to settle about 2,500 opioid-related cases, The New York Times reported July 29. 

4. While denying any wrongdoing, Teva Pharmaceuticals settled more than 3,000 opioid lawsuits spanning 12 states. Teva agreed on July 26 to pay $4.25 billion in cash, which includes $1.2 billion worth of a drug used to treat opioid overdoses, over the next 13 years. 

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