The state of Tennessee is taking pharmacy giant Walgreens to court for willfully fueling an opioid endemic in the state by flooding the market with prescription narcotics.
In the lawsuit, Tennessee argues that Walgreens misused its position to dispense more than 1.1 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills between 2006 and 2020, which equates to nearly 175 tablets each for the state’s seven million residents. The state finds Walgreen’s misdeeds a violation of public nuisance and consumer protection laws.
The lawsuit also argues that Walgreens, which is one of the largest pharmacy chains in Tennessee, was part of an unlawful controlled substance selling scheme as the company chose to ignore various alarming signs of opioid prescription practices.
“The sheer volume of opioids that Walgreens released into Tennessee was unreasonable and highly suspicious on its face,” the lawsuit says. “Walgreens utterly saturated the state of Tennessee with narcotics.”
Reports show that Walgreens acquired 795 million opioids from its distributors during the time frame. While some of these opioids were sourced by Walgreens from other wholesalers, the company self-distributed 81% of them directly through its stores.
“Walgreens did not flood the state of Tennessee with opioids by accident. Rather, the fuel that Walgreens added to the fire of the opioid epidemic was the result of knowing – or willfully ignorant – corporate decisions,” it said.
The retailer is, of course, refuting the claims and plans to defend itself in court.
“We will continue to defend against the unjustified attacks on the professionalism of our pharmacists, dedicated health professionals who live in the communities they serve,” the company said in an emailed statement.
Tennessee, one of the worst hit states in the country, has been recording an average of three deaths per day due to the opioid crisis. The state’s decision to sue Walgreens follows similar efforts by other jurisdictions, Reuters reported.
Earlier this year, the company settled a $683 million lawsuit that was brought against it by the state of Florida for exacerbating the opioid crisis in the state.