Beshear Sues Walgreens For ‘Dual Role’ In State’s Opioid Epidemic

Posted at 10:10 AM, Jun 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-14 10:10:10-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Attorney General Andy Beshear filed suit against Walgreens on Thursday for its dual role as distributor and pharmacy in allegedly failing to legally monitor its own operations that shipped and dispensed large quantities of opioids through its more than 70 locations statewide.

Beshear said the company’s actions flooded Kentucky communities with dangerous prescription drugs, directly contributing to the state’s drug epidemic.

Since taking office, Beshear has been working to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable and to find workable solutions to the drug epidemic.

The lawsuit, filed in Boone Circuit Court, alleges unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices by Walgreens for excessively distributing and dispensing opioids in Kentucky and for failing to legally report to state and federal authorities the suspiciously large orders it received for prescription opioids. 

“As Attorney General, my job is to hold accountable anyone who harms our families,” Beshear said, “While Walgreens’ slogan was ‘at the corner of happy and healthy,’ they have significantly harmed the health of our families in fueling the opioid epidemic.” 

Beshear said he filed his sixth lawsuit in Boone County because of the large number of Kentuckians who have died from overdoses in Northern Kentucky. 

“While the pain of addiction and loss of a loved one may never heal, I want to make sure these billion dollar companies take responsibility and become a part of the solution,” said Beshear.

Beshear’s lawsuit alleges that Walgreens, whose 2018 second quarter sales topped $33 billion, failed to use its unique position as a pharmacy and distributor to prevent the flood of opioids into Kentucky.

As a distributor, the company has real-time data regarding exact amounts of pills, pill types and customer orders for its store and is legally required to report suspicious orders to the DEA. The company has distribution centers close to Kentucky’s borders in Illinois and Ohio.

As a pharmacy, it is legally required to monitor and flag suspicious customer prescriptions, such as individuals traveling long distances to fill prescriptions or doctors prescribing outside the scope of their usual practice.

Beshear said Walgreens knew or should have known of Kentucky’s exceedingly high rate of suspicious opioid shipments and prescriptions and the significant correlating risk of abuse, misuse and diversion of prescription opioids.

Today’s action is the sixth opioid related lawsuit Beshear has filed.

In November 2017, Beshear’s first filed suit against manufacturer Endo Pharmaceuticals regarding its drug Opana ER. The suit alleges Endo violated state law and directly contributed to opioid related deaths and overdoses in Kentucky.

This year, Beshear has sued three national opioid distributors, Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergen, Ohio-based Cardinal Health and San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation, which together are responsible for supplying 85 percent of opioids in Kentucky, and New Jersey pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson and Johnson.

As the lawsuits progress, Beshear said his main priority is to make sure these drug companies are hauled into a Kentucky court and held accountable to those they have harmed – the people of Kentucky.

Beshear’s office also works to combat illegal drug use and abuse in Kentucky communities. Investigators from the Office of the Attorney General are assigned to the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA). The Appalachia HIDTA consists of counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Under prevention, Beshear launched the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program, the state’s first initiative to allow Kentuckians to safely dispose of opioid medications at home. The pilot program includes Henderson, Floyd, McCracken and Perry counties. Beshear’s Office of Senior Protection is also working with the faith-based community to distribute the pouches at senior events.

In total, the program has the potential to dispose of more than 2.2 million unused opioids.

Beshear is working with CVS Health to launch safe medication disposal programs in Kentucky. The in-store safe disposal units are now in nine 24-hour CVS Pharmacy locations in Elizabethtown, Frankfort, Georgetown, Lexington, Louisville and Paducah. By cleaning out medicine cabinets and disposing of unused prescription drugs at a CVS Pharmacy, Kentuckians can help reduce the nearly 80 percent of heroin users who begin their addiction with prescription drugs, Beshear said.