It does not happen as often as it should, but sometimes, corporations face criminal charges related to their conduct. Pharmacy chains such as Walgreens and CVS have recently been targeted by state governments for contributing to the opioid epidemic. The drug chains are accused of dispersing hundreds of thousands of pills per week which were then diverted to pill mills. Massive upticks in opioid medication distribution did not trigger red flags for anyone involved. The chains are accused of knowingly helping cause the epidemic.
State governments have filed criminal and civil charges against various corporations and their executives, some of whom were given decades-long prison sentences for their role in distributing pills to black-market merchants. CVS settled a similar lawsuit for a reported $870 million. Walgreens is facing a similar judgment if they lose at trial. Meanwhile, Perdue Pharmaceutical has reached a tentative $6 billion with the U.S. government with much of the money paid directly by the Sackler family, which owns the company.
The case against Walgreens
Walgreens is a chain pharmacy that is headquartered right here in Illinois. The State of Florida is accusing the company of dispensing over 4.3 billion opioid pills and around 50% of those orders had red flags which should have stopped the disbursement. However, doing so would have reduced Walgreen’s profits by 50%. So Walgreens continued disbursing the medication as prescribed despite the obvious red flags involved. The state contends that Walgreens should have recognized the issue earlier. However, attorneys representing the defendants contend that the problem was entirely caused by the pharmaceutical companies and that it is not within the purview of pharmacists to argue with doctors over their patients’ needs.
The defense further contends that the State of Florida is responsible for the extent of the problem as they did little or nothing to thwart the emergence of “pill mills” that arose around the fraudulent opioid prescriptions. Further, it is well-established that the drug companies openly misrepresented the addictiveness of their drugs claiming that the newest generation of opioids had less addictive potential that the former generation. However, if you study the history of opioids, every generation of opioids is considered the “least addictive” and yet the pills appear to be getting more and more addictive.
The cases against CVS and Walgreens are strong, but when you recognize that the problem was allowed to proliferate with the indifference of law enforcement, regulators, the federal government, doctors, the medical community, and literally anyone else who had a chance to prevent it from occurring, throwing the pharmacy chain under the bus is more than a little hypocritical. That will not stop the government from blaming the company for their own failures as they did contribute liability in the matter. The money will be used to repay the costs of drug treatment.
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