The Justice Department is suing Walmart, claiming that the country’s largest retailer distributed illegally controlled substances through its pharmacies and helped fuel the country’s opioid crisis.
In a civil complaint filed on Tuesday, the federal government alleges that Walmart pressed its pharmacists to fill opioid prescriptions quickly, denying them the ability to refuse invalid prescriptions. As a result, the complaint alleges, these pharmacists knowingly filled out thousands of prescriptions that came from “pill factories,” prescriptions for specific, widely used drug combinations, and prescriptions that other Walmart pharmacies flagged as invalid. The latter meant that “when a Walmart pharmacist recognized that a customer’s prescription was invalid, the customer could simply look for another pharmacist or Walmart store to fill the same or similar prescription,” the complaint says.
The government also accuses Walmart of not detecting and reporting suspicious prescriptions to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, as required by law.
“Walmart knew that its distribution centers were using an inappropriate system to detect and report suspicious orders,” said Jason Dunn, Colorado’s attorney general, in a call with reporters. “As a result of this inadequate system, for years Walmart has reported virtually no suspicious orders.”
Walmart operates more than 5,000 pharmacies in its stores across the country.
“As an opioid distributor and distributor across the country, and due to the large number of pharmacies it operates, Walmart was exceptionally well positioned to prevent illegal opioid diversion. However, for years, depending on the epidemic of prescription drug use. devastated the country, Walmart abdicated those responsibilities “, says the complaint.
Walmart: bad doctors are to blame
In a statement, Walmart said the government process “is fraught with factual inaccuracies and handpicked and out of context documents.
“Blaming pharmacists for not questioning the doctors themselves that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has approved to prescribe opioids is a transparent attempt to deflect blame for the DEA’s well-documented failures to prevent bad doctors from prescribing opioids in the first place,” statement said.
“Walmart has always authorized our pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions for problematic opioids, and they have refused to fill hundreds of thousands of such prescriptions. Walmart has sent tens of thousands of investigative leads to the DEA and blocked thousands of questionable doctors from have their opioid prescriptions filled in our pharmacies, “the statement said.
In October, Walmartagainst the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr and the Drug Enforcement Administration. In the process, Walmart said the Department of Justice investigation – initiated in 2016 – identified hundreds of doctors who wrote problematic prescriptions that Walmart pharmacists should not have filled out. But Walmart’s lawsuit accused nearly 70% of doctors still having active records in the DEA.
The Walmart lawsuit claimed that the government blamed it for the lack of regulatory and enforcement policies to contain the crisis. The company is asking a federal judge to declare that the government has no basis for claiming civil damages, and its lawsuit is still ongoing.
Bridget Brown and The Associated Press of CBS News contributed to this report.