By TOM JOYCE
THE CENTER CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) — California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced a $5.7 billion multistate settlement agreement in principle with a retail pharmacy chain on Monday.
The settlement reached with Walgreens aims to resolve the pharmacy chain’s role in “fueling the opioid epidemic,” according to a news release from Attorney General Bonta’s office.
The settlement aims to resolve allegations that Walgreens failed to properly oversee opioid dispensing at its pharmacies. It could bring more than $500 million in funding for California to help those harmed by the opioid epidemic, the release said.
“This settlement is another win in our ongoing fight to bring help and healing to California communities harmed by the opioid crisis,” Attorney General Bonta said in the release. “To all those struggling with substance abuse disorders, to all those desperately in need of treatment and recovery options — help is on the way. The California Department of Justice is working to bring valuable funding to our state’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis from the companies who once chose profits over the well-being of our communities.”
State, local and tribal governments will split the funds from the settlement. Most of the money will go toward combating the opioid epidemic, including increasing funding for treatment and recovery services, the release says.
The settlement includes court-ordered injunctive relief requirements in hopes of preventing this from happening in the future, the news release says.
Here are some of those provisions, according to the release:
— The implementation of a Controlled Substance Compliance Program to ensure compliance with injunctive terms, to train employees, and to help prevent drug diversion.
— A requirement to investigate and resolve prescriptions with potentially suspicious “red flags” before dispensing the drug.
— Site visits and compliance reviews of individual pharmacy locations.
— An agreement to provide unblinded “867” sales data from the company’s distributor to drug manufacturers, which will help identify and prevent drug diversion.
— An executive committee of attorneys general from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas, who have served as the lead negotiators on this deal. The settlement has been endorsed by the executive committee, attorneys representing local governments and Walgreens.
Each state will now review the terms of the agreement. They will have until the end of this year to join. If enough states sign on to the agreement, then it will go to local governments around the country for them to sign on to in the first quarter of 2023.
California is currently assessing the terms of a similar type of settlement agreement with fellow retail pharmacy chain CVS.
“Attorney General Bonta is committed to holding accountable all those who fueled or profited from the opioid epidemic and bringing needed funding back to impacted communities,” the press release from the Attorney General’s office said. “To date, (the) DOJ has secured approximately $30 billion through nationwide settlements against opioid manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Mallinckrodt; distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen; and consulting firm McKinsey & Company.”