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  • Max Ferrandino

Actors in the Opioid Epidemic: CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart’s Unsettled Settlement

Consumer Value Stores (CVS) and Walgreens are close to a 10 billion dollar settlement over their role in the opioid crisis. CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart are culpable because, as stated by the prosecution, they should have a check on the doctors who overprescribe opioids and thereby cause addiction in their patients. The three companies should have paid much more for the damage they caused, however, they are only select members of a much longer list of groups that prescribe opioids for medical use.

History of Opioids

The history of opioids is long and varied. It started in 3,400 BCE in Summaria, modern-day Iraq, where doctors used the poppy flower for medicinal purposes. The poppy flower contains heroin, morphine, and opium. All three are highly addictive. Opioid use in the 1800s resulted in “One Night Cough Syrup,” which includes “alcohol, cannabis, chloroform, and morphine.” These cough syrups were incredibly potent and very dangerous.

Heroin was synthesized in the 1890s by the Bayer pharmaceutical company, called a “wonder drug,” and was remarkably popular. Later, researchers discovered that heroin's effects were amplified through injection. In 1914, the US Harrison Narcotics Tax Act imposed a new tax on products made with opium as well as those derived from the coca plant, whose leaves can be processed to produce cocaine or crack cocaine. These drugs are highly addictive and dangerous, especially for individuals predisposed to addiction.

Introduction of Oxycodone

Oxycodone was developed in 1994 and placed on the market by 1996. Oxycodone is one of the drugs that CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart are being charged with for excessive distribution. Perdue, the developer of Oxycodone - along with the help of McKinsey & Company, one of the largest consulting firms in the world - heavily marketed this drug to doctors. These doctors then over-prescribed these drugs to patients, and CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart pharmacies filled those prescriptions when they should have acted as a check on doctors.

By 2012, Perdue tried to introduce an “abuse-deterrent” into their pills, making Oxycodone harder to crush for intravenous use. But, unfortunately, it was too little, too late. As CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden in the New England Journal of Medicine states, “we know of no other medication [referring to opioid painkillers] routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently.”

CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart

The pharmacies culpable in the opioid epidemic are looking to settle out of court. CVS and Walgreens have proposed to pay 5 billion dollars in an out-of-court settlement. Walmart offered a separate out-of-court settlement of 3.1 billion dollars. Their decision is motivated by a recent decision in two Ohio counties where CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart were each ordered to pay 650 million dollars to the plaintiffs involved. The corporations were disappointed in this ruling


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