Politics & Government

Kentucky wants Walgreens to pay for opioid epidemic

Walgreens, 2290 Nicholasville Rd., in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday,  January 27, 2015.
Walgreens, 2290 Nicholasville Rd., in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, January 27, 2015. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear announced Wednesday he has filed a lawsuit against Walgreens for allegedly contributing to the state's opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit, filed in Boone Circuit Court, alleges unfair, misleading and deceptive business practices by Walgreens. Beshear claims Walgreens failed to "legally report to state and federal authorities the suspiciously large orders it received for prescription opiods," according to a news release.

Beshear said Walgreens knew or should have known of Kentucky's high rate of suspicious opioid shipments and prescriptions.

Walgreens directly contributed to the state's drug epidemic, Beshear alleges. Walgreens did not reply to requests for comment or declined comment, according to several media reports.

“My job is to hold accountable anyone who harms our families,” Beshear stated. "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.”

The lawsuit was filed in Boone County "because of the large number of Kentuckians who have died from overdoses in Northern Kentucky," according to a release..

As of Aug. 31, 2017, there were about 95 Walgreens in Kentucky. Since then, at least 14 Lexington Rite Aid stores have been purchased by Walgreens as part of a nationwide acquisition of roughly 2,000 Rite Aid stores.

The Walgreens complaint is the sixth opioid-related lawsuit Beshear has filed. He has filed suit against AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation, Johnson and Johnson and Endo Pharmaceuticals.

“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,” he said.

Delaware has also sued Walgreens, as well as CVS, in its effort to hold the pharmacies accountable for contributing to the opioid epidemic. In 2017, Walgreens agreed to a $200,000 settlement with Massachusetts to resolve allegations it improperly dispensed opioid medications to Medicaid patients, according to the Boston Globe. In some cases, Walgreens filled opioid prescriptions that insurance companies denied.

In March, Beshear teamed up with Walgreens competitor CVS for a safe medication disposal program.

Facing pressure from an ethics panel ruling, Attorney General Andy Beshear said he hasn't decided if he wants to run for governor in 2019.