Home » Opioid Crisis Leads CVS and Walgreens to Pay $10 Billion

Opioid Crisis Leads CVS and Walgreens to Pay $10 Billion

Courtesy of Carol VanHook (Flickr CC0)

The Opioid Crisis

State and municipal governments have sued CVS and Walgreens for $10 billion for very serious issues concerning their pharmacy. They have accused them of improperly handling prescription medications and contributing to the U.S. opioid problem. They will each contribute about $5 billion for their prospective parts. Walmart is also prepared to make a $3 billion settlement, according to reports.

The deal sums are a good sign of how much the pharmacy chains will have to pay even though they still need to receive formal approval. The Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the popular opioid medication OxyContin, negotiated a $6 billion settlement agreement earlier this year after a federal judge rejected a $4.5 billion original settlement offer.

The recent round of settlements effectively puts an end to the significant lawsuits filed against a dozen businesses that were held responsible for what is arguably the worst addiction epidemic in American history. The largest deal was reached by drug distributor McKesson for $7.4 billion. The deal totals $53 billion in total.

Courtesy of JJBers (Flickr CC0)

That still represents less than the $206 billion settled by tobacco companies for the medical expenses associated with treating smoking-related illnesses, and it represents a minuscule portion of the $1 trillion per year that the U.S. opioid crisis is currently estimated to be costing.

The Statistics

Overdose deaths in the U.S. have reached previously unheard-of proportions as a result of a combination of the rising numbers of people buying illegal opiates and the spread use of fentanyl. 92,000 individuals died from drug overdoses in 2020. Nearly 70,000 of those were related to opioids, up from 50,000 in 2019. At least 82,000 of the 103,000 overdose deaths predicted for 2021 will be related to opioids.

The costs of such a severe disaster are difficult to predict.  The crisis costs more than $1 trillion annually, according to the CDC. Accounting for human suffering, medical costs, and spending on the criminal justice system.

However, the number dates back to 2017, when just 2 million Americans suffered from an opioid use disorder. 48,000 of them passed away from an overdose as a result. At least 3 million people will have an opioid addiction in 2021, and 82,000 people will die from it. This increases the current epidemic’s size from 2017 by at least 50%, which would increase the estimated yearly cost to $1.5 trillion, by more recent cost projections from the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.

This would imply that the entire settlement payments only account for roughly 0.3% of the annual bill. The 12 biggest businesses were settled with $1.8 trillion in combined sales in 2021.

By Esteban Ruiz


Quartz: The companies responsible for the $1.5 trillion-a-year US opioid crisis will pay a total of $53 billion for it

BCC: CVS and Walgreens agreed to pay $10bn to settle opioids lawsuits

Aljazeera: US pharmacy companies reach $10bn settlement over opioid claims

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Carol VanHook’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy ofJJBers’s  Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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