Walmart sues DOJ and DEA ahead of expected opioid lawsuit

25 Octobre, 2020, 16:50 | Auteur: Auguste Feret
  • Walmart sues US in pre-emptive strike in opioid abuse battle

Seeking to fend off what it called unjustified criticism of its pharmacies, and its pharmacists' role in combating the opioid crisis, Walmart has filed a suit seeking clarity on their roles under the Conmtrolled Substances Act.

"Walmart and its pharmacists find themselves in an untenable position", the company based in Bentonville, Arkansas, says in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas.

American multinational retail corporation Walmart announced it has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against the United States government to thwart its "completely unjustified" attempt to hold the company legally accountable over opioid abuse across the country.

"Walmart and our pharmacists are torn between calls for from [the Drug Enforcement Administration] on one facet and well being companies and regulators on the opposite, and sufferers are caught within the center", the Arkansas-based firm, which runs greater than 5,000 pharmacies across the USA, said in a statement.

Walmart says in the suit that the Justice Department identified hundreds of doctors who have written problematic prescriptions that Walmart's pharmacists allegedly should not have filled.

Spokespersons for the Justice Department and DEA didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment on the suit.

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Walmart and our pharmacists are committed to helping address the opioid crisis that has affected so many. "Under defendants' sweeping view, Walmart and its pharmacists may be held liable - perhaps even criminally - for failing to second-guess DEA-registered doctors and refuse their prescriptions".

If a pharmacist declines to fill a prescription written by a DEA-licensed doctor because of concerns about the doctor's judgement, the pharmacist would be making a decision without a medical license or knowledge of the patient, which could cause them to lose their license, Walmart states in the complaint. "And DOJ now has stated it will sue Walmart for not going far enough by continuing to fill opioid prescriptions of certain licensed doctors-many of whom are still authorized by DEA to prescribe opioids to this day".

Walmart indicated in the suit that it chose to sue the government in anticipation of the DOJ filing its own suit alleging the chain mishandled the highly addictive pills. Following a dispute from Walmart over the process, however, the DOJ in August 2018 declined to prosecute the company, the complaint states.

With the help of aggressive marketing from pharmaceutical companies, particularly through doctors, prescriptions for highly addictive opiate painkillers that had previously been reserved for serious cases skyrocketed in the late 1990s.

"Walmart and the company's pharmacists are torn between demands from DEA on one side, and health agencies and regulators on the other, and patients are also caught in the middle".

Earlier this week, Purdue Pharma LP agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges over the handling of its addictive prescription opioid OxyContin and pay $225m in a deal with USA prosecutors that effectively sidestepped paying billions of dollars in penalties and stopped short of criminally charging its executives or wealthy Sackler family owners.

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