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Maryland announces $238 million in new opioid settlements with Walgreens, Walmart, two drugmakers

Angela Roberts, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in Health & Fitness

A former sales representative who provided sworn testimony to the Attorney General’s Opioids Unit claimed that Teva paid thousands of dollars in speaker fees, meals and drinks to three prescribers from the same Annapolis practice. These prescribers generally treated chronic non-cancer pain.

Under the settlement agreement, Teva will be required to pay restitution to the state for 13 years. The news release estimated that the state will bring in about $70.3 million from that agreement.

The complaint against the second opioid manufacturer, Allergan — now a part of AbbVie, headquartered in Chicago — alleges the company misled prescribers and patients about the relative safety of its extended-release morphine product, Kadian. The attorney general’s office said the company sold the product by deceptively marketing it as an option that was safer than other opioids.

The company also misled prescribers about the nature of addiction, the news release said, claiming that patients who were exhibiting the signs of addiction were not really addicted, but simply required more medicine to relieve their pain.

“These false messages led Maryland prescribers to increase opioids doses to those already suffering from addiction, contributing to the vast overprescription of opioids that fueled the opioids epidemic of addiction and death,” the attorney general’s office said.

Over the course of seven years, Allergan is expected to pay about $38.2 million to the state.

The biggest pay-out announced Wednesday comes from Walgreens, which is expected to pay $74.8 million over the course of 15 years for failing to protect their customers from inappropriate or unsafe prescription drugs.

 

Pharmacies are required by state and federal law to investigate opioid prescriptions that seem “problematic” before filling them, the attorney general’s office said. However, Walgreens and Walmart — which will pay the state about $55.5 million over the next six years — put inappropriate pressures on pharmacists and other pharmacy employees to fill prescriptions despite warning signs that showed the prescriptions might be unsafe.

This led both retailers to fill opioid prescriptions that were inappropriate and unsafe, “creating or contributing to the addiction and ultimate death of many Marylanders,” the news release said.

According to the news release, Walmart pharmacies filled prescriptions from health care providers at a now-shuttered pain management clinic in Baltimore County for 39 patients who later died from overdoses caused by opioid abuse and addiction. Walgreens pharmacies filled prescriptions for 116 patients from the same clinic who later died from overdoses.

“Walmart and Walgreens, the complaint charges, were aware of issues with the providers, but filled these and other prescriptions anyway, while deceiving the public that they were keeping consumers safe,” the news release said.

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©2024 The Baltimore Sun. Visit at baltimoresun.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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