OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday that his office is suing Kroger, Albertsons and Rite Aid, arguing that their pharmacy chains act as the “last barrier” against opioid over-prescription. failed to function as intended.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court, is the latest effort by Ferguson and other U.S. attorneys general to hold businesses accountable for promoting prescription opioids, The Seattle Times reports. .
According to the lawsuit, more than 12,000 Washingtonians will die of an opioid overdose between 2006 and 2021.
“During the opioid crisis over the past decade, these companies ignored federal regulations, put profit over safety, and intentionally oversupplied opioids in our state,” Ferguson told a news conference in Seattle.
The attorney general is suing the companies under state law, accusing them of violating state consumer protection and public nuisance laws.
The Associated Press sent messages to the three companies seeking comment.
“The people of Washington count on pharmacies to be responsible,” Ferguson said. “They depend on it for their health. Pharmacies play an important role as the last barrier to prevent overprescribing of controlled substances or prescription drugs. But in many cases, this is not the case.”
Ferguson said the companies have paid fines for violating federal regulations related to opioid prescriptions, but the fines “are not sufficient to obtain meaningful accountability.” They said pharmacies helped fuel an illegal market for opioids by oversupplying the drugs.
Ferguson also said Wednesday that he signed multi-state resolutions with CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies, as well as the Teva and Allergan pharmaceutical companies, for their role in curbing opioid use. The Attorney General’s Office estimated that the state could receive $434.4 million once those proposals are finalized.
That money should be used to combat the opioid epidemic and would be split between state and local governments.
The recent resolutions are in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars secured by the state after legal battles against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
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