San Francisco announced on Wednesday that it had reached a settlement of $230 million with Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. over the company's role in the city’s opioid epidemic.
The settlement was reached nine months after US District Court Judge Charles Breyer said that the drugstore chain may be held responsible for having "substantially" contributed to the opioid epidemic in San Francisco, which caused 'widespread damage' and constituted a nuisance in the public domain.
Breyer criticized Walgreens' '15-year failure to properly scrutinize prescriptions of opioids and flag potential misuse of these sometimes highly addictive drugs.
David Chiu, San Francisco's City Attorney, said at a press event that the Walgreens settlement was the largest ever awarded to a local authority in decades of opioid litigation across the country.
He claimed that Walgreens actions "made the opioid crisis in San Francisco worse than otherwise" and that 'no amount money can bring back the lost lives'
Walgreens issued a statement in which it said that it "disputes responsibility" and has not admitted fault. However, it added that the settlement allows it to concentrate on its patients, customers, and communities. It added that 'our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragic incident'.
After several drugmakers, distributors and retailers reached settlements totaling more than $120,000,000, the Deerfield, Illinois based company was the last remaining defendant to San Francisco's civil suit.
Breyer, in his ruling of last August 10, after a nonjury trial, found that Walgreens had a profit-driven culture, 'fill,fill,fill', when it came to dispensing opioids.
Breyer reported that Walgreens San Francisco pharmacies received over 1.2 million prescriptions for opioids that had'red flags,' but only performed due diligence before dispensing less than 5% of them.
Walgreens settlement avoids a court trial to determine damages.
San Francisco estimated that it would cost $8.1 billion dollars to combat the opioid epidemic, and Walgreens is legally responsible for the full amount.
Walgreens, a rival company to CVS Health Corporation, reached an opioid settlement of $683 million with Florida in May. This settlement represents more than three quarters of the $878 millions that Walgreens and four other companies had agreed to pay earlier, as part similar settlements.
Opioids includes legal painkillers like OxyContin and various forms of fentanyl.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 600.000 people died in the United States due to drug overdoses between 1999 and 2021. This includes 107,000 deaths in 2021.