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Colorado will receive $150M in national opioid settlements with CVS, Walgreens

Posted at 11:41 AM, Dec 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-12 23:02:10-05

DENVER — A bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, including Colorado's Phil Weiser, finalized national opioid settlements with CVS and Walgreens, securing $10.7 billion nationwide.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said under the agreements, CVS will pay $5 billion and Walgreens will pay $5.7 billion.

Of the $10.7 billion total, Colorado's share of funds is about $150 million.

In addition to Weiser, negotiations were led by the attorneys general from North Carolina, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Texas.

Weiser said he was proud to help spearhead this effort.

"The companies that helped create and fuel the opioid crisis need to step up to fix it," he said. "That means providing significant resources to increase treatment and recovery services and changing their business practices to make sure this never happens again. All in, Colorado will receive more than $700 million from national opioid settlements to save lives and help the people in our state experiencing opioid addiction recover.”

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That recently included a settlement with Walmart, in which the company agreed to pay $3.1 billion nationwide, with more than $40 million for Colorado. The $3.1 billion must be used to provide treatment and recovery services to those struggling with opioid use disorder. Weiser said in a November press release that the settlement resolves claims that Walmart contributed to the crisis by "failing to appropriately oversee the dispensing of opioids at its stores."

CVS, Walgreens and Walmart have all agreed to court-ordered injunctive relief that requires the pharmacies to monitor, report, and share data about suspicious activity related to opioid prescriptions, according to the Colorado Attorney General's Office. Most of Walmart's amount will be paid within the first year, CVS's payments will be spread over 10 years and Walgreens' payments will be spread over 15 years.

The terms of the two new agreements will go to states for them to review, and join, by the end of 2022. Weiser said Colorado will join the agreement.

"All settlement funds Colorado receives will be distributed according to the same opioid framework agreed to by the State and Colorado’s local governments in August 2021, and funds must be used to address the opioid crisis, including prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery services," the Colorado Attorney General's Office said.

Dr. Robert Valuck, director of the Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention at CU Anschutz, said that while the settlement money will help local prevention efforts, it is far from a panacea.

"It's like bringing a garden hose to this forest fire and expecting it to be put out in 20 minutes, and it's just not going to work that way. This is a very complicated problem that is going to take years to untangle ourselves from," Valuck said. "Sixty percent of people who have opioid use disorder, and need and want treatment, cannot get access to it."

In November 2021, a federal jury said that CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies didn't do enough to stop the flow of opioid pills into two Ohio counties, setting the tone for U.S. city and county governments that want to hold pharmacies accountable for their roles in the opioid crisis.

"Maybe they weren't trying to get people addicted, but they weren't being as vigilant as they probably should have been," Valuck said. "And whether the companies agree with them or not in the settlements as far as culpability, they have agreed to pay out those damages, those settlements, and now people can use those to help to try to address [addictions] in these communities."

Opioids of all kinds have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades.