The US Justice Department is suing Walmart Inc., accusing the corporation of helping to fuel the opioid crisis through its pharmacies and ignoring warnings about their practices.
According to the lawsuit filed in US District Court in Delaware, Walmart irresponsibly dispensed highly-addictive painkillers through its various in-store pharmacies.
The lawsuit also accused the company of putting “enormous amounts of pressure” on pharmacists to fill a high volume of prescriptions “while at the same time denying them the authority to categorically refuse to fill prescriptions issued by prescribers the pharmacists knew were continually issuing invalid prescriptions.”
Walmart operates more than 5000 pharmacies in the US.
The Justice Department suit is the latest move in an ongoing battle with Walmart, as the retailer filed its own suit in October seeking for a judge to declare that the government has no lawful basis to seek financial penalties from them based on investigations alleging questionable prescriptions being filled, saying the responsibility does not fall on them but government regulatory agencies.
In their suit, Walmart claimed the Justice Department had identified hundreds of doctors in an investigation launched in 2016 that had written questionable prescriptions filled by Walmart pharmacists, but many of those doctors still have active registrations.
“In other words, defendants want to blame Walmart for continuing to fill purportedly bad prescriptions written by doctors that DEA and state regulators enabled to write those prescriptions in the first place and continue to stand by today,” the company said.
The suit also claims the Justice Department wants to impose “unworkable conditions” on pharmacists and pharmacies “not found in any law.”
Opioid overdoses climbed to a record high in 2019 with approximately 50,000 dying. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported this week that overdoses and addiction rates are on the rise this year, partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic.