Aug 10 (Reuters) - Walgreens Boots Alliance
contributed to the opioid epidemic in San Francisco through its
sale of prescription drugs in the city, a federal judge
concluded on Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco said
that Walgreens failed to properly investigate suspicious opioid
orders for nearly 15 years. The amount the pharmacy chain must
pay will be determined in a later trial.
Walgreens' pharmacists filled hundreds of thousands of
suspicious opioid prescriptions from 2006 to 2020 with
pharmacists not given time, staffing or resources to properly
investigate red flags, Breyer wrote.
San Francisco in 2018 sued Walgreens, as well as several
drug manufacturers and distributors, over the opioid epidemic in
the city, saying they created a "public nuisance" by flooding
the city with prescription opioids and failing to prevent the
drugs from being diverted for illegal use.
A trial began in April, and all of the defendants except
Walgreens reached settlements with the city before the court
Breyer said San Francisco had shown that Walgreens' lax
oversight led to illegal drug use that substantially contributed
to the opioid epidemic in the city.
Walgreens said that it was disappointed with the ruling and
intends to appeal.
"We never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we
distribute them to the 'pill mills' and internet pharmacies that
fueled this crisis," Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman said.
The opioid epidemic has caused more than 500,000 opioid
overdose deaths over two decades, according to the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3,300 opioid
lawsuits have been filed nationally against drug manufacturers,
distributors and pharmacies, culminating with many of the other
companies - though not the pharmacies - agreeing to proposed
The opioid crisis has hit San Francisco hard, with
opioid-related emergency room tripling from 886 in 2015 to 2,998
in 2020, according to the court ruling.
Paul Geller, an attorney who represented the city in the
case, credited San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu for
working to hold companies accountable for contributing to "the
horrific epidemic in the Bay Area.
Walgreens was found liable in 2021 for contributing to the
opioid epidemic in a similar trial brought by two Ohio counties.
Walgreens and its co-defendants, CVS Health Inc and Walmart, are
awaiting a ruling from the Ohio court on the amount they must
pay to address the opioid crisis in those counties.
(Reporting by Dietrich Knauth; Editing by Mark Porter, Deepa
Babington, Alexia Garamfalvi and Mike Harrison)