Walmart offers to pay $3.1B to settle opioid lawsuits

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart has offered to pay $3.1 billion to settle lawsuits filed by state and local governments over opioids that the retailer’s pharmacies dispensed, The Associated Press is reporting.

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The news, which broke Tuesday morning, came less than two weeks after CVS Health and Walgreens announced similar proposals to pay a combined $10 billion to settle opioid lawsuits, according to The Washington Post.

The planned settlements, which have not been finalized, resulted from negotiations with state attorneys general, the AP reported.

In a statement Tuesday, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said Walmart’s proposal “adds to the important progress” in battling the opioid crisis.

“Too many families have lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic, and too many people have lost years of their lives to addiction,” the statement read in part.

“As a result of our efforts, working alongside lawyers representing cities and counties, Walmart is committing to pay $3.1 billion and to improve the way it does business. These meaningful resources will help people suffering from opioid addiction get the treatment and recovery services they need. And the changes to the way pharmacies operate will ensure that this never happens again.”

In a news release Tuesday, Walmart said the settlement’s framework “is in the best interest of all parties and will provide significant aid to communities across the country in the fight against the opioid crisis.”

“Walmart is proud of our pharmacists and our efforts to help fight the opioid crisis,” the retailer’s statement continued. “Walmart strongly disputes the allegations in these matters, and this settlement framework does not include any admission of liability. Walmart will continue to vigorously defend the company against any lawsuit not resolved through this settlement framework.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdose deaths have increased more than eightfold since 1999 and grew by 38% from 2019 to 2020. Nearly 69,000 of 2020′s 91,799 deadly drug overdoses involved opioids, the agency said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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