Walgreens Boots Alliance, the parent company of pharmaceutical chain Walgreens, announced Thursday that it has reached a $683 million settlement with the state of Florida to resolve claims that the pharmacy chain exacerbated an opioid epidemic in the state.
Florida last month reached more than $878 million worth of settlements with CVS Health Corp and three drug companies — Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Allergan PLC, and Endo International Plc — to resolve claims over their roles in fueling an opioid epidemic within the state.
The settlement ends a trial that began on April 11, after Walgreens decided not to join a combined settlement with the four other healthcare companies.
“As the largest pharmacy chain in the state, we remain focused on and committed to being part of the solution, and believe this resolution is in the best interest of all parties involved and the communities we serve across Florida,” said executive vice president and global chief legal officer of Walgreens Boots Danielle Gray. “Our pharmacists are dedicated healthcare professionals who live and work in the communities they serve and play a critical role in providing education and resources to help combat opioid misuse and abuse.”
The settlement amount of $683 million includes $620 million to be paid out to the State of Florida over 18 years, as well as a one-time payment of $63 million for attorneys’ fees, according to a Walgreens Boots press release. The settlement funds will be used by the State of Florida to support its efforts to combat and treat opioid addiction.
Data from the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Vital Statistics indicates Florida’s unintentional and undetermined drug overdose deaths more than doubled from 2014 to 2016, with 2,175 deaths in 2014, 2,805 in 2015, and 4,672 in 2016
According to the most recent data available through the Florida Department of Health, nearly 68 percent of the 4,698 reported drug overdose deaths in Florida involved opioids in 2018—a total of 3,189 fatalities. In 2018, Florida providers wrote 53.7 opioid prescriptions for every 100 persons, compared to the average U.S. rate of 51.4 prescriptions. Several cities in Florida have been hit particularly by the opioid epidemic, leading former Governor Rick Scott in 2017 to order a statewide public health emergency.
“I know firsthand how heartbreaking substance abuse can be to a family because it impacted my own family growing up,” said Scott. “The individuals struggling with drug use are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends and each tragic case leaves loved ones searching for answers and praying for help. Families across our nation are fighting the opioid epidemic and Florida is going to do everything possible to help our communities.”
According to Associated Press, the opioid epidemic has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades, counting those from prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and generic oxycodone as well as illicit drugs such as heroin and illegally produced fentanyl.