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Florida Sues Walgreens and CVS for Opioid Distribution

Florida is suing Walgreens and CVS, two of the largest drugstore chains in the nation, among other opioid distributors and producers, for their role in the opioid epidemic.

The state is alleging that Walgreens and CVS added to the national opioid crisis and to the Florida state opioid crisis by selling more painkillers than necessary and for their “unconscionable efforts to increase the demand and supply of opioids into Florida.”

The lawsuit alleges that Walgreens has dispensed billions of doses of opioids in Florida pharmacies since 2006.  In some stores, its opioid sales jumped six-fold in two years.

The lawsuit further alleged that in 2011,  Walgreens’ pharmacies in Florida ordered more than one million dosage units of oxycodone. That’s ten times the average amount.

Five years ago, the company paid $80 million  to resolve a federal investigation that centered on inadequate record keeping of its Florida opioid sales. The inadequate record keeping allowed opioid pills to get to the black market.

The lawsuit revealed that a Walgreens distribution center sold  2.2 million opioid tablets to  its pharmacy in Hudson, a tiny town, population 12,000. That’s about a six month supply for each resident.

In another town, not identified in the lawsuit, Walgreens sold 285,000 pills in a month to a population of 3,000.

It also shipped more than 1.1 million opioid pills to two pharmacies in Fort Pierce— 1.1 million pills each.

In regard to CVS, the lawsuit accuses the company of distributing more than 700 million dosages of opioid meds in the State of Florida through 754 Florida stores between the years of 2006 and 2014.

CVS also paid $22 million to settle allegations that its pharmacists were filling fake opioid prescriptions in 2015.

“Armed with knowledge of their own sales and shipments and industry-wide data, Defendants knew or should have known that the quantity of opioids being distributed in Florida far exceeds the medical need of Florida residents,” the lawsuit said.

CVS and Walgreens are not the only pharmacies being sued in this lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in May and already includes other opioid distributors like InSys. (They aggressively marketed SubSys, a fentanyl spray.) Also included are opioid manufacturers, like Purdue Pharma, (OxyContin), Endo Pharmaceuticals, (Percocet) and Teva Pharmaceuticals, who manufactures generic drugs.

Walgreens said they don’t comment on pending lawsuits.

Mike DeAngelis, spokesman for CVS, said the lawsuit is “without merit.” He stated that CVS trains its employees to properly shoulder their responsibilities when they are dispensing controlled substances, and that the company gives pharmacists and their assistants tools to detect illegal sales.

“Over the past several years, CVS has taken numerous actions to strengthen our existing safeguards to help address the nation’s opioid epidemic,” DeAnglelis said.

Walgreens and CVS are working to install drug take back kiosks in their pharmacies, where patients can return unused or expired drugs, in an effort to help with the opioid crisis.

The DEA and Google both provide locators to find your nearest prescription drug take back locations.

Check out The DEA and Google pages below. They contain tools and more info on the ever growing efforts to help people properly dispose of their unused prescription drugs. This is certainly part of the bigger plan to help end the opioid crisis.

DEA’s Prescription Drug Take Back Location Tool

Google’s Prescription Drug Take Back Location Tool

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