Walmart In Hot Water: Pharmacies Under Fire

Walmart is in some trouble, but not necessarily in the package delivery area.  The Trump administration has sued the company.  The lawsuit is centered on the opioid crisis.

The opioid problem is a national crisis.  In 2018, according to the CDC, there were almost 47,000 deaths relating to opioid overdoses.  This breaks down to 128 people a day having an opioid overdose (NIH).  

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The origins of the current problem go back to the 1990s.  Basically, pharmaceutical companies said that addiction to prescribed opioid pain relievers was not something to worry about.  Professionals then prescribed them at high rates, ultimately leading to a large problem (NIH).

The overall cost of the crisis is big.  “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total ‘economic burden’ of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement” (NIH).  

The core of the lawsuit “claims that Walmart sought to boost profits by understaffing its pharmacies and pressuring employees to fill prescriptions quickly. That made it difficult for pharmacists to reject invalid prescriptions, enabling widespread drug abuse nationwide” (Fox).  

Walmart is alleged to have filled invalid prescriptions and did not report suspicious orders to the DEA.  The cost for each unlawful prescription alone is $67,627.  The civil case could cost billions of dollars (Wamsley).   

On the flip side, Walmart claims that they have done the opposite of what they are accused of.  They went after the Justice Department saying that the investigation that has gone on for years “is tainted by historical ethics violations, and this lawsuit invents a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors, and is riddled with factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents taken out of context” (Wamsley). 

This lawsuit is not a surprise to the company as evidenced by the fact that they sued the government in October (Fox). 

“Drug Overdose Deaths.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 Mar. 2020, http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html.

Journal, The Wall Street. “US Sues Walmart Alleging Role in Fueling Opioid Crisis.” Fox Business, Fox Business, 22 Dec. 2020, http://www.foxbusiness.com/retail/doj-sues-walmart-opioid-crisis.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Opioid Overdose Crisis.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 10 June 2020, http://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis.

Wamsley, Laurel. “Justice Department Sues Walmart, Alleging It Illegally Dispensed Opioids.” NPR, NPR, 22 Dec. 2020, http://www.npr.org/2020/12/22/949266706/justice-department-sues-walmart-alleging-it-illegally-dispensed-opioids. 

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