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Walgreens held liable for San Francisco’s opioid crisis, judge finds

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A federal judge has ruled Walgreens contributed to San Francisco’s opioid crisis. The pharmacy chain was accused of over-dispensing opioids without proper oversight. In Wednesday’s court decision, Judge Charles Breyer said Walgreens played a substantial role in the opioid crisis.

“Walgreens continually violated what they were required to do under the Federal Controlled Substances Act,” Breyer wrote in his ruling. “Pharmacists were pressured to fill fill fill — and as a result — Walgreens filled our streets with opioids. Tens of thousands of these prescriptions were written by doctors with suspect prescribing patterns. The evidence showed that Walgreens did not provide its pharmacists with sufficient time, staffing, or resources to perform due diligence on these prescriptions.”

The ruling is part of a 2018 lawsuit the city filed against Walgreens and other drug manufacturers and distributors. The city argued the companies created a “public nuisance” by flooding the city with prescription opioids. Drug overdose deaths have surged in San Francisco. Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency last year in the Tenderloin neighborhood, saying something had to be done about the high concentration of drug dealers and people consuming drugs out in public.

The City Attorney’s Office said San Francisco saw a nearly 500% increase in opioid-related overdose deaths between 2015 and 2020 and that on a typical day, roughly a quarter of visits at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Emergency Department are opioid-related.

The other two companies named in the lawsuit had previously settled before Wednesday’s court ruling on Walgreens. Opioid makers Allergan and Teva paid the city $54 million, and Teva agreed to pay on the eve of closing arguments in the trial. Walgreens remained as the sole defendant. The damages Walgreens will have to pay will be determined at a future trial.

The opioid crisis has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades, counting those from prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and generic oxycodone as well as illicit drugs such as heroin and illegally-produced fentanyl.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Karah Rucker: A FEDERAL JUDGE HAS RULED THAT WALGREENS CONTRIBUTED TO SAN FRANCISCO’S OPIOID CRISIS.
THE PHARMACY CHAIN WAS ACCUSED OF OVER-DISPENSING OPIOIDS WITHOUT PROPER OVERSIGHT.
IN YESTERDAY’S DECISION- THE JUDGE SAID WALGREENS QUOTE “CONTINUALLY VIOLATED WHAT THEY WERE REQUIRED TO DO UNDER THE FEDERAL CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT.”
HE SAID “PHARMACISTS WERE PRESSURED TO FILL FILL FILL — AND AS A RESULT — WALGREENS FILLED OUR STREETS WITH OPIOIDS.
THE RULING IS PART OF A 20-18 LAWSUIT THE CITY FILED AGAINST WALGREENS AND OTHER DRUG MANUFACTURERS AND DISTRIBUTORS.
ALL OTHER DEFENDANTS PREVIOUSLY SETTLED WITH THE CITY FOR A TOTAL OF 114 MILLION DOLLARS.
THE DAMAGES WALGREENS WILL HAVE TO PAY WILL BE DETERMINED AT A FUTURE TRIAL.

A federal judge has ruled Walgreens contributed to San Francisco’s opioid crisis. The pharmacy chain was accused of over-dispensing opioids without proper oversight. In Wednesday’s court decision, Judge Charles Breyer said Walgreens played a substantial role in the opioid crisis.

“Walgreens continually violated what they were required to do under the Federal Controlled Substances Act,” Breyer wrote in his ruling. “Pharmacists were pressured to fill fill fill — and as a result — Walgreens filled our streets with opioids. Tens of thousands of these prescriptions were written by doctors with suspect prescribing patterns. The evidence showed that Walgreens did not provide its pharmacists with sufficient time, staffing, or resources to perform due diligence on these prescriptions.”

The ruling is part of a 2018 lawsuit the city filed against Walgreens and other drug manufacturers and distributors. The city argued the companies created a “public nuisance” by flooding the city with prescription opioids. Drug overdose deaths have surged in San Francisco. Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency last year in the Tenderloin neighborhood, saying something had to be done about the high concentration of drug dealers and people consuming drugs out in public.

The City Attorney’s Office said San Francisco saw a nearly 500% increase in opioid-related overdose deaths between 2015 and 2020 and that on a typical day, roughly a quarter of visits at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Emergency Department are opioid-related.

The other two companies named in the lawsuit had previously settled before Wednesday’s court ruling on Walgreens. Opioid makers Allergan and Teva paid the city $54 million, and Teva agreed to pay on the eve of closing arguments in the trial. Walgreens remained as the sole defendant. The damages Walgreens will have to pay will be determined at a future trial.

The opioid crisis has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades, counting those from prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and generic oxycodone as well as illicit drugs such as heroin and illegally-produced fentanyl.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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