Walgreen’s Role in the Opioid Crisis

You may know by now that America is in the middle of a public health emergency with the current opioid crisis. But, who’s to blame? So far, most of the blame has been placed on illicit drug dealers. However, back in June of 2018, the state of Kentucky sued the pharmacy chain Walgreens for their role in the opioid epidemic.

Kentucky sued Walgreens for acting as a distributor and dispenser of the opioids that are the centerpiece of the state’s crisis. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky had over 3,700 drug overdose deaths between 2014-2016. The Kentucky Attorney General plans to hold the pharmaceutical company responsible for the deaths, stating Walgreen’s actions “flooded Kentucky communities with dangerous prescription drugs, directly contributing to the state’s drug epidemic.”

There have been numerous lawsuits filed across the nation against drug supply chain companies for their alleged roles in the opioid crisis. They have been accused of downplaying the risks of addiction, flooding the communities with drugs, and failing to report suspicious prescription activities. Kentucky has been among the hardest hit states in the country.

As a drug distributor, Walgreens has access to to real-time data regarding the exact amounts of pills, types of pills, and customer orders. By law, they are required to report suspicious orders to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to take appropriate action.

As a pharmacy, Walgreens is legally required to closely monitor customer prescriptions. They are also required to flag suspicious prescriptions, such as doctors prescribing outside their usual practice or individuals who travel long distances to have prescriptions filled.

With the opioid epidemic killing an average of 100 Americans per day, the question of who is to blame arises. Data from SAMHSA reveals that drug dealers play a limited role when it comes to prescription opioids. About 50% of non-medical users of prescription opioids obtain them from family members or friends with 25% obtaining them from physicians. Numerous state and local governments have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. They claim that companies purposely mislead physicians about the potential addictive properties of their products.

Besides drug manufacturers and distributors, the blame is often placed on physicians and elected officials. Certain prescribing habits by physicians can reflect negligence. For example, if a doctor prescribes an increasing dose of painkillers for chronic pain instead of helping a patient find a safer alternative or writes a large prescription as opposed to writing smaller ones and monitoring a patients progress. On the other hand, doctors may not be fully aware of the properties of the medication they are prescribing. Elected officials have also come under fire during the opioid crisis. Some place the blame on them for failing to hold large drug companies accountable.

Regardless, the 72,000 overdose-related deaths last year in America reflects a failure of our healthcare system and its leaders. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to opioids, contact us for information on how to move forward towards recovery.

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