Florida AG accuses pharmacy chains of fueling the opioid epidemic

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced on Nov. 16 that the pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens had been added to a lawsuit that her office filed in May against a number of leading pharmaceutical companies. The litigation accuses the drug companies and retail chains of fueling an opioid epidemic by creating an illegitimate demand for and recklessly distributing potentially lethal narcotic painkillers.

The pharmaceutical companies named in the lawsuit include Perdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin; Endo Pharmaceuticals, which manufactures Percocet; and the generic drug maker Teva Pharmaceutical. Bondi says that Walgreens and CVS dispensed unreasonable quantities of these powerful and highly addictive opioid painkillers and failed to meet their legal duty to notify authorities about suspicious orders. Other defendants are accused of offering doctors financial rewards for prescribing the drugs.

Tackling the opioid crisis is considered a priority for Florida law enforcement. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse reveals that 2,798 Floridians lost their lives in 2016 after overdosing on the drugs. Walgreens has had similar accusations leveled against it in the past, and its recordkeeping has been criticized by Drug Enforcement Administration investigators. The pharmacy chain may find it difficult to explain how one of its stores in Hudson sold enough opioid tablets to provide all 12,000 of the town's residents with a six-month supply.

The growing opioid crisis has also prompted lawmakers to stiffen the penalties for possessing and distributing the drugs. However, proving drug charges beyond any reasonable doubt could be challenging for prosecutors even when the facts of a case seem clear. During plea negotiations, experienced criminal defense attorneys may work with prosecutors to agree on an arrangement that minimizes penalties in exchange for a swift conclusion.

Source: National Public Radio, Florida Sues Walgreens, CVS For Alleged Role In Opioid Crisis, Emily Sullivan, Nov. 19, 2018

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