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Utah lawsuit filed against major pharmaceutical chains for alleged involvement in opioid crisis

Posted at 4:31 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-02 16:14:26-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has filed a lawsuit against Walgreens, Smith’s/Kroger, and Rite-Aid, claiming the companies improperly distributed prescription pain medication and actively exacerbated the opioid crisis.

Reyes alleges that the pharmacies “deliberately disregarded their duties to maintain effective controls against diversion” and “created an abatable public nuisance” for which he seeks payment to reduce opiod misuse and pay damages resulting from the crisis.

Among the allegations against Walgreen's was that the corporate office was receiving bonuses and incentives based on the number and speed of the opioid prescriptions filled, often to the point where boxes of the drugs had to be stored in unsecured locations.

Smith’s/Kroger failed to report suspicious orders or control the supply of opioids into Utah, according to the lawsuit's allegations, and Kroger chose to ignore "red flags" of abuse, such as customers who traveled long distances to fill prescriptions or were receiving multiple prescriptions and paying for them in cash.

One such example is a store in Price, a city of 8,216 people, that bought enough oxycodone and hydrocodone over seven years to supply 71 pills per person in the community.

Because chain pharmacies self-distribute and are the last link in the opioid supply chain to users, they serve a gatekeeping role which the lawsuit alleges they failed to fulfill.

It also charges that the companies worked together to increase profits and loosen restrictions on use and enforcement, adding to the staggering cost of the opioid crisis which is often borne by state and taxpayers.