Walmart to face trial for allegedly triggering US Opioid crisis

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
  • Follow author on
Walmart Image
Representational Image

The world’s biggest retailer, Walmart has been accused by the US Justice Department of ignoring warnings from its own pharmacists and continuing to supply opioids based on invalid medical prescriptions. 

Opioids are pain-relieving drugs that can lead to death when consumed excessively.

In a civil lawsuit in US District Court in Delaware, the government pointed out that the retail giant failed to take any accountability on the Opioid orders it fulfilled without any due diligence at its end.

In a response to the allegations, Walmart called the lawsuit “tainted by historical ethics violations”, one which “invents a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors, and is riddled with factual inaccuracies.”

The lawsuit, one of the most notable actions the Justice Department has taken in response to the epidemic targeting companies states that the retail giant created a system that turned its 5,000 in-store pharmacies into a supplier of highly addictive painkillers from as early as June 2013.

Speaking to the media on the matter Mr. Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Acting Head of the US Justice Department’s Civil Division remarked that Walmart’s “unlawful” actions helped “fuel a national crisis” and had “disastrous consequences.”

Meanwhile, Walmart called the suit a “transparent attempt to shift blame from the (Drug Enforcement Administration) well-documented failures in keeping bad doctors from prescribing opioids in the first place.”

States, counties and municipalities across the US have filled more than 3,000 lawsuits holding drugmakers and distributors such as Walmart responsible for feeding an opioid addiction epidemic that, as per the US government data has resulted in 450,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2018.

If found guilty, Walmart might have to cough up civil penalties in the tune of $67,627 for each unlawful prescription filled and $15,691 for each suspicious order not reported.

Defending its position on the matter, Walmart responded that, “by demanding pharmacists and pharmacies second-guess doctors, the US Justice Department is putting pharmacists and pharmacies between a rock and a hard place with state health regulators who say they are already going too far in refusing to fill opioid prescriptions.”