Opioid Settlement: Walmart Agrees To $3.1B Framework

Arkansas-headquartered retail giant Walmart Inc. announced on Tuesday a plan to pay $3.1B to settle lawsuits filed by state and local governments over the opioid epidemic in the US.

Opioid Settlement: Walmart Agrees To $3.1B Framework
Image credit: Reuters [via The Wall Street Journal]

Facts

  • Arkansas-headquartered retail giant Walmart Inc. announced on Tuesday a plan to pay $3.1B to settle lawsuits filed by state and local governments over the opioid epidemic in the US.
  • This comes as seventeen states, along with multiple cities and Native American tribes, have accused Walmart of recklessly distributing painkillers despite concerns, creating and fueling the opioid epidemic.
  • Similar to pharmacy chains CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., which agreed earlier this month to pay about $5B each to settle the disputes, Walmart hasn't admitted to any wrongdoings in its deal.
  • This framework was negotiated with more than a dozen state attorneys general. It will resolve virtually all opioid lawsuits and potential lawsuits against the company if it meets the conditions of a total of 43 states.
  • If this $3.1B proposal is indeed agreed upon, Walmart would reportedly pay most of it within a year while being subject to "robust oversight" to prevent fraudulent prescriptions in the future.
  • According to CDC data, 109K people are believed to have died of an overdose in the US last year, of which nearly 81K from opioids. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl were involved in more than 71K of these deaths.

Sources: Guardian, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, FT, and Forbes.

Narratives

  • Narrative A, as provided by NY Times. Pharmacy chains have finally agreed to pay for their guilt in this public health disaster that has claimed the lives of thousands of Americans. While they've long alleged that their pharmacists were only filling doctor-ordered prescriptions, it's evident that these companies were strictly focused on profiting and showed no social conscience in face of the tragic opioid epidemic.
  • Narrative B, as provided by Walmart. While not responsible for this crisis, Walmart has taken decisive steps to support affected communities across the US much faster than any other nationwide settlement to date. In addition, it has empowered pharmacists and engaged in educating patients about opioid abuse while also advocating for state and national policies to prevent its abuse and misuse.