More than $13 billion has been agreed upon by Walmart, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and CVS Health Corp to settle thousands of lawsuits filed by state and local governments accusing pharmacy owners of improper handling of opioid painkillers.

The proposed settlement calls for CVS to pay $4.9 billion and could be one of the last significant agreements, according to businesses and individuals with knowledge of the situation.

This is resulting from more than five years of litigation involving the highly addictive painkillers.

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Walgreens will pay about $5 billion and Walmart $3 billion to settle the lawsuits brought by the municipalities.

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Officials from CVS confirmed their contribution to the settlement on Wednesday, November 2,

They added the company will also pay $130 million to settle opioid claims made by Native American tribes.

The payouts will be spread out over ten years.

In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Walgreens said its payments will be dispersed over a 15-year period.

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This will include more than $750 million in legal fees in addition to about $154 million for the tribes involved.

The agreements won’t be finalized until enough states, counties, and cities have ratified them.

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This structure resembles the $26 billion opioid agreement that Johnson & Johnson and the three biggest US drug distributors came to in 2021.

Months of discussions resulted in the proposed deals and were driven by a group of six state attorneys general who had targeted pharmacy providers for failing to monitor opioid prescriptions handled by their businesses properly.

Thomas Moriarty, CVS’s general counsel, said: “We are pleased to resolve these long-standing claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders.

“As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation, we remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and wellbeing of our customers and patients while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis,” officials of Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens said in a release

The settlement marks another step forward in the sweeping legal fight over opioids -blamed for more than 500,000 US deaths over the last two decades.

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Nearly 4,000 lawsuits were filed by states, municipalities, and counties against more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies, wholesalers, and retailers in an effort to recover billions of dollars spent fighting the US opioid epidemic.

They have so far recovered about $30 billion to bolster police and drug treatment budgets.

Municipalities charge businesses with downplaying the dangers of prescription painkiller addiction and forgoing patient safety in favor of enormous profits.

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They’ve had some success convincing juries to hold the companies accountable for mishandling the painkillers and causing “public nuisances.”

State and local governments, however, also failed in their attempts to hold drug manufacturers accountable for wrongdoing in relation to the epidemic.

Source: Bloomberg

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