The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that it had filed suit against Walmart for its part in the opioid epidemic.
According to the complaint filed in federal court, the DOJ alleges that Walmart Inc. unlawfully dispensed opioids from its pharmacies across the country, resulting in hundreds of thousands of violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The department said it is seeking civil penalties, which could add up to billions of dollars, and injunctive relief.
“It has been a priority of this administration to hold accountable those responsible for the prescription opioid crisis. 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,” said Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Division. “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. This unlawful conduct contributed to the epidemic of opioid abuse throughout the United States. Today’s filing represents an important step in the effort to hold Walmart accountable for such conduct.”
According to the DOJ, Walmart knowingly filled thousands of not medically necessary prescriptions for controlled substances. Additionally, after the company ceased distribution of controlled substances in 2018, it failed to report thousands of suspicious orders for controlled substances to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The DOJ contends that Walmart’s actions contributed to the opioid epidemic in the United States.
If found guilty of violating the CSA, Walmart could face civil penalties of up to $67,627 for each unlawful prescription and up to $15,691 for each suspicious order the company did not report.
“For years, Walmart failed to meet its obligations in distributing and dispensing dangerous opioids and other drugs,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Daniel J. Feith of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch. “We look forward to advancing this case with our DOJ partners.”