The Justice Department sued Walmart on Tuesday, alleging that the retail giant helped fuel the country’s opioid crisis, The New York Times reports.
The DOJ said in a 160-page civil complaint that the company allowed its pharmacies to fill millions of opioid prescriptions, including thousands that authorities labeled suspicious.
The lawsuit argues that Walmart knew its detection system was inadequate and that numerous employees warned federal officials and company management about the suspicious prescriptions.
“As one of the largest pharmacy chains and wholesale drug distributors in the country, Walmart had the responsibility and the means to help prevent the diversion of prescription opioids,” Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s civil division, said in a statement. “Instead, for years, it did the opposite — filling thousands of invalid prescriptions at its pharmacies and failing to report suspicious orders of opioids and other drugs placed by those pharmacies.”
Walmart joins other pharmacies under fire:
The DOJ suit marks an escalation in the federal government’s role in holding those accused of fueling the opioid crisis accountable.
Previous lawsuits from counties in Ohio targeted CVS, Walmart, and Rite Aid with similar allegations.
The lawsuits accused the pharmacy chains of selling millions of pills in small communities, promoting opioids, and rewarding pharmacists with the highest volumes.
DOJ similarly said that Walmart ignored “glaringly obvious red flags.”
The DOJ cited testimony from numerous company employees and pharmacists who expressed alarm over suspicious prescriptions.
“Given the nationwide scale of those violations, Walmart’s failures to follow basic legal rules helped fuel a national crisis,” the lawsuit says.
Walmart said the DOJ investigation was “tainted by historical ethics violations” and “riddled with factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents taken out of context.”
“Blaming pharmacists for not second-guessing the very doctors the Drug Enforcement Administration approved to prescribe opioids is a transparent attempt to shift blame from D.E.A.’s well-documented failures in keeping bad doctors from prescribing opioids in the first place,” the company said in a statement.