WV Attorney General sues Walgreens and Rite-Aid over opioid distribution

West Virginia

UPDATE 5:30 p.m. 6/2/2020: Walgreens shared the following statement with WOWK 13 News regarding the lawsuit filed today by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Walgreens is a company of pharmacists who live and work in the communities we serve.  We never manufactured or marketed opioids, and never sold opioids to the pain clinics, internet pharmacies and “pill mills” that fueled the opioid crisis. Prior to 2014, unlike other companies involved in this litigation, we delivered opioids only to our own pharmacies, and the only place we ever sold opioids was at the pharmacy counter, when presented with a prescription written by a prescriber, with a valid DEA license, for a legitimate medical need.

Walgreens Media Relations

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed lawsuits against Rite-Aid and Walgreens alleging the two opioid distributors reaped billions of dollars in revenues, while their conduct caused “immense harm” to West Virginia and its citizens.

Morrisey’s office says the lawsuits allege Rite-Aid and Walgreens, as individual distributors, supplied far more opioids to their retail pharmacies than necessary to meet a legitimate market. He says the retail pharmacies also ordered additional pills from other distributors to fulfill demand.

The attorney general says Rite-Aid and Walgreens each knew its obligation to halt suspicious orders to its retail pharmacies, but failed to monitor for and report such activity.

“Prescription opioid pill mills and rogue prescribers cannot channel opioids for illicit use without at least the tacit support and willful blindness of distributors, if not their knowing support,” Morrisey says. “Those who unconscionably help create our state’s opioid epidemic should be held accountable, pay for their role in the crisis and act to remediate the problem. West Virginia deserves nothing less.”

Morrisey says each company was among the state’s top 10 opioid distributors from 2006 to 2014, during which the Rite-Aid lawsuit estimates it distributed the equivalent of more than 87 million, 10-milligram oxycodone pills, and its retail pharmacies ordered another 127.5 million pills from other distributors to fulfill demand.

The Walgreens complaint estimates it distributed the equivalent of 29.6 million pills and its pharmacies ordered another 17.6 million, according to the attorney general’s office. The lawsuit additionally points to a pattern of systemic failures at Walgreens to meet its legal obligations, which included development of a system to detect and block shipment of suspicious orders.

The civil complaints maintain that retail data offered Rite-Aid and Walgreens unique knowledge and notice that their operations were meeting more than a legitimate market demand. Morrisey says the complaints do not assert claims related to either company’s role in dispensing opioids to patients.

The lawsuits allege Rite-Aid and Walgreens continued to sell, ship and profit from the highly dangerous and addictive prescription painkillers rather than report suspicious orders and stop diversion.

The Attorney General alleges conduct by Rite-Aid and Walgreens violated the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and caused a public nuisance. Both lawsuits seek injunctive and equitable relief.

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