By RIA ROEBUCK JOSEPH
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – On Jan. 3, California Attorney General Robert Bonta signed onto a multistate $5 billion settlement with CVS. This follows a similar $3 billion settlement with Walmart announced on Nov. 15 and a $5.7 billion agreement with Walgreens on Dec. 12. The most recent settlement with CVS is expected to provide about $470 million in funding to address the opioid crisis in California.
In America, 136 people die everyday from opioid consumption. Over 10 million people annually misuse opioids resulting in the fatal overdose of almost 50,000 individuals each year. Seventy-two percent of overdose deaths are opioid related. These are the key findings of the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.
When it comes to prescription opioids, the center found that 32% of all opioid overdose deaths were prescribed, part of the 153 million prescriptions filled and dispensed by pharmacies. In California alone, doctors write so many prescriptions, that almost 48% of its residents could each get one, and it is these prescriptions that play a role in 45% of fatal overdoses in the state.
The role of pharmacies in dispensing opioids contributing to the staggering death rates have not gone unnoticed by the states. Indeed, it is because of the impact of opioid deaths on the states, that the largest pharmacies CVS, Walgreens and Walmart have agreed to a combined $13.7 billion dollar settlement for their role in oversight failure in dispensing opioids to consumers.
“Today, we begin the year with another win in our fight to hold corporate giants to account for their role in fueling the opioid crisis,” Mr. Bonta stated.
The West Coast’s largest state, California is home to 39 million residents where almost 6 out of every 100,000 people die from an opioid overdose.
Part of the settlement funds will go towards treatment for addiction and recovery services.
Mr. Bonta, part of an executive committee of attorneys general, joined Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas in leading the negotiations with the pharmacies.
Mr. Bonta noted “Too many people in California and beyond have had their lives and futures ripped apart by the opioid crisis. The funds from this settlement will help bring much-needed relief to our communities and will ensure CVS changes its business practices to keep such a crisis from ever happening again. As we embark on a new year together, here’s my resolution — to never stop fighting for justice on behalf of all Californians and to do everything in my power to create a healthier future for us all.”
The settlement included court-ordered measures to be put in place to prevent “this type of crisis” from happening again, Mr. Bonta’s press release stated.
CVS too has made some changes and reiterated its commitment to address the opioid crisis. Appointing an oversight board to develop new strategies to address opioid addiction.
The CVS Health site states “Our Board is committed to supporting the development of solutions to reduce opioid misuse in our communities through expanded education, safe prescription drug disposal, utilization management, funding for treatment and recovery programs and advocating for legislative and regulatory changes.”
“CVS Health has made a commitment to help address the abuse and misuse of prescription opioids by designing programs and collaborating with community leaders, policymakers, law enforcement, health care professionals and others to increase community-based educational programs related to opioid misuse and abuse, create safe prescription drug disposal sites, expand access to life-saving antidotes and advocate for targeted and effective policies, locally and nationally. “