US sues Walmart, says its pharmacies fueled opioid crisis

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Walmart Dec. 22 alleging the supermarket giant contributed to the opioid crisis by failing to properly screen its pharmacies for abusive prescribing practices. 

The Justice Department alleged Walmart pressured its pharmacy employees to fill prescriptions as quickly as possible and that its emphasis on speed made it hard for pharmacists to reject suspicious prescriptions, The Hill reported. 

The lawsuit also claims Walmart made it difficult for pharmacists to reject prescriptions from physicians suspected of overprescribing. Pharmacy compliance managers allegedly didn't share information between stores that would have allowed pharmacists to identify suspected overprescribers. 

Jeffrey Bossert Clark, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil division, told The Hill that "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. 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."

He alleged that Walmart violated the Controlled Substances Act, both as a pharmacy for dispensing the controlled substances, and as a distributor for failing to detect and report suspicious orders. 

In October, Walmart preemptively sued the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration in anticipation of the lawsuit. The company alleged the U.S. government is trying to put undue blame on it and eschew its own role in the opioid epidemic.

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