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DOJ Sues Walmart For Role in Opioid Crisis

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An interior shot of the Walmart Pharmacy in Minnesota-DOJ Sues Walmart-ss-featured

This week, the DOJ sues Walmart Inc for violating the Controlled Substance Act. It sought billions of dollars in penalties and injunctive relief against the company. The Department charged Walmart for failing to screen prescriptions issued by questionable doctors. Then, Walmart allegedly boosted its pharmacy profits by understaffing its pharmacies. It also reportedly pressured employees to fill prescriptions quickly. Consequently, these management instructions made it difficult for pharmacists to reject questionable prescriptions.

RELATED: Walmart Hiring 20,000 Workers

The DOJ alleges Walmart’s network of 5,000 in-store U.S. pharmacies made it a leading supplier of painkillers. The allegations dated back to June 2013, according to the suit. With Walmart locations spread nationwide, they helped enable drug abuse nationwide.

Walmart Responds to the Suit

Walmart replied that the lawsuit contains “factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents.” It alleged that the DOJ invented a legal theory that assumed too much from pharmacists. It “unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors.” Allegedly, the government wants to blame their staff for not second-guessing DEA-approved doctors. In addition, Walmart said that this is a “transparent attempt to shift blame.” Plus, the DEA is full of “well-documented failures” in keeping bad doctors from prescribing opioids.

Also, the retail chain added it already empowered pharmacists to refuse questionable opioid prescriptions. In fact, they already rejected hundreds of thousands of such prescriptions.

Pre Emptive Suit Against the Government

Earlier this year, Walmart already expected the government to file a civil complaint. The company sued the federal government last October to head off the investigation. It charged that the feds attempted to scapegoat Walmart for the opioid issue. Instead of them, Walmart said that the government’s own regulators are to blame. It claimed that around 70% of suspect doctors remain licensed to prescribe medications. This medical personnel still have valid DEA registrations. 

In a statement, Walmart headed off a possible suit against them. They said the department shouldn’t try to blame them for not screening prescriptions. Instead, they should look at the DEA and state regulators. They are the agencies that issue licenses to doctors that prescribe painkillers.

Second Guessing Doctors

Walmart also said they already blocked thousands of doctors from their system. The blacklist prevented them from getting their prescriptions filled at Walmart pharmacies. However, they drew the line at pharmacists taking over a federal responsibility. They said it was equal to asking them to second-guess doctors and regulators. 

Walmart alleged that the suit places their pharmacists “between a rock and hard place.” State regulators already accuse Walmart of going too far in refusing prescriptions. Now, they want staff to second-guess doctors.

It’s Walmart’s Fault

Maria Chapa Lopez of the Tampa US attorney’s office blamed Walmart squarely. She said the glut of opioids is due to Walmart not performing its obligations. In addition, the pharmacies’ low prices on opioids attracted a lot of customers. Pharmacists, under pressure from company executives, received orders to work faster. Consequently, customers kept coming back to branches that filled their prescriptions fast.

Compliance Unit

The Justice lawsuit alleges that Walmart continually ignored warnings about understaffing its stores. The pressure to sell increased the chances for mistakes and put patients at risk. Meanwhile, Compliance managers allegedly gave little help to pharmacists. The suit alleges that managers didn’t share information between stores. Managers also declined to supply blanket requests to questionable doctors. This happened despite other chains already blacklisting them. 

A Walmart compliance director wrote about the failure to “follow basic legal rules.” This in turn “helped fuel a national crisis.” The market directors should be analyzing refusal to refill reports. Instead, they focused on driving sales and patient awareness.

Aggressive Marketing

Governments say Walmart and other companies used aggressive marketing to drive opioid demand. This in turn led to a painkiller epidemic. As the DOJ sues Walmart, the latter and other national chains should start taking notice. They should also accept their role in helping combat the opioid crisis. 

Around 50,000 cases of fatal opioid overdoses happened in 2019, which stands as a record high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the opioid crisis worsened in 2021. With the pandemic, more people began using painkillers. At the same time, the shutdown prevented health officials from making interventions.

Watch the CNBC new report where the Department of Justice sues Walmart:

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Do you agree with the Justice Department saying that it’s Walmart who’s on the hook for rising opioid cases? Or, do you side with Walmart in saying they only fill prescriptions issued by DEA-approved doctors? Let us know which side you find more liable by sharing your opinion in the comment section below.

10 Comments

10 Comments

  • Avatar Lydia says:

    Really!!?!!

    Five years too late. This is pure greed for cash!

  • Avatar Lydia says:

    If DOJ wins, who gets the cash!!! Ha Ha Crooked As Crooks!! Ha Ha

  • Avatar Lydia says:

    What about free enterprise. Walmart wasn’t suppose to have that many stores??!! Ha Ha

  • Avatar John Wholey says:

    The government is so stupid regarding this issue, You cannot deal with this issue by trying to control the users. I was denied emergency room help because the nurse and doctor said I wanted a morphine shot. One day later, my emergency room visit was diagnosed as having 4 eroding ulcers. I was also rejected at another Emergency Room because after drawing blood, the doctor said nothing was wrong other than low potassium and my need to get pain killers as an addict. People who need the pain meds are scrutinized because of stereotypes of nurses and doctors and others in society. I now have to take pain meds every day for the arthritic condition in my back that is inoperable and is not responding to shots. Opioid related deaths can be from desperate patient that are being denied meds by scrutinized pharmacies that deny the meds and cause serious withdrawals and subsequent need to go out on the street or use alcohol or anything available to get them through the withdrawals until their script is filled. The CDC is so stupid but they should listen to those who know.

  • Avatar Kevin Beck says:

    I almost busted my gut when I read from that US Attorney in Tampa that Walmart executives were forcing their pharmacists to work faster, thereby not rejecting enough prescriptions.

    The company schedules their employees based upon EXPECTED demand. If there are more people lining up at the window than they expected, then there are two immediate choices: Work at the normal pace and see the lines grow faster than they can be serviced, or speed up the processing to help relieve the lines. Choice 3 might be to hire more pharmacists at the location, but that’s not the most immediate solution; it requires skilled labor to be available, which is not always the case. Remember that pharmacists are also licensed; you can’t just give someone a white lab coat and put them behind the counter to do that job.

    For years, people and politicians have been yammering about the high cost of prescription drugs. Walmart has been a leader in lowering the consumer prices on these drugs, and they get hit with a lawsuit for giving the people what they want? That’s just sick!

    The Criminal Drug Cartel Pushers seem to do nothing serious except put out reams of statistics about this, and then say that people took up painkillers because of the shutdown. THEY were the ones pushing for the shutdown! I don’t think there were too many people that became addicted to these painkillers that were actively promoting that we should have a nationwide shutdown that took away their employment. Once more, the government comes up with a “solution” that has unintended consequences, and then they look to shove off the blame to the private sector.

    In conclusion: If the drug manufacturers made a defective product, then the product should be removed from distribution. That’s the only job the government should have in this scenario. The fault belongs with either the manufacturer for making a defective product, or the government overseers for allowing a defective product to be produced.

  • Avatar Roger says:

    If the doctor don’t have a license to right the prescriptions they wouldn’t be a prescription from that doctor Walmart couldn’t fill it if the doctor don’t have a license to write the prescription people overdose on such prescriptions perhaps they should read the instructions if somebody overdoses on sugar are they going to sue Domino’s sugar. Hummmm???

  • Avatar Dick says:

    I worked for walmart and the Dept was always busy and I agree that they are the ones pushing the dope.

  • Avatar Mark Moczynski says:

    It Is the manufacture of the medications fault for pushing the drug with pharmaceutical reps encouraging doctors to prescribe their meds and the crisis don’t come from people with chronic pain comes from drug attic‘s faking back pains a person should have surgery on their back if it hurts so bad they need meds if by chance the surgery don’t work and they continue to need meds that’s a different story The government and the DA shouldn’t get involved in a Dr. patient confidentiality The only place for government when it comes to medication is keeping the cost down

  • Avatar Pricilla Boykin says:

    People who live with severe everyday pain are made to suffer more because these people (the overseers) need to keep their jobs no matter what it takes; whether they’re hurting people who are already hurting physically anyway. Pain specialists make more money by making people suffer more, making them pay more money just to even travel to them to get their opinions. These people want you to rate your level of pain, etc. You already know they’re in pain every day. It’s so awful what people who are in severe pain are made to jump or go through hoops just to get pain meds. No wonder so many people give up.

  • Avatar Rodney JACKSON says:

    Free people make their own decisions! Some decisions will not be the best, depending upon who is making the judgments. People have used alcohol to produce bad outcomes for thousands of years. The BIG QUESTION IS, what is appropriate to do? Until a problem is examined thoroughly & carefully, considering all aspects an intelligent effort to mitigate the damaging effects will fall short. Opioids are useful tools. Like Thalidomide , it can be used to good effect or ill, through time are we made aware. Suffering is a fact of life – learn from it we must.

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