A jury trial accusing Walgreens Boots Alliance WBA.O of contributing to Florida’s opioid addiction epidemic was set to begin on Monday after the pharmacy chain opted not to join a multimillion-dollar settlement by other defendants.
The state accuses Walgreens of poor oversight in its dispensing and distributing opioids in Florida, allowing the drugs to be diverted to illegal use and causing an increase in addiction. Walgreens has denied the allegations.
Jury selection began on April 5, with opening statements by attorneys set for Monday before Judge Kimberly Sharpe Byrd in Pasco County Circuit Court.
The pharmacy chain has argued it should be immune from the current litigation based on a mere $3,000 settlement reached with Florida in 2012 following an investigation into its record-keeping policies and efforts to prevent the diversion of opioid drugs.
Under the previously-announced settlements by Walgreens’ prior co-defenants in the Florida trial, pharmacy chain rival CVS Health Corp will pay $484 million. In addition, drugmakers Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. agreed to will pay $194.8 million, Abbvie Inc’s Allergan unit will pay $134.2 million and Endo International Plc $65 million. Walgreens argued that the 2012 deal released it from future opioid claims in the state, even if Florida regretted those terms as a “bad bargain,” according to court transcripts.
Florida in the same court transcript called the Walgreens’ position “absurd,” saying the earlier deal addressed only a single record-keeping violation. The settlements from the other previous defendants in the litigation totaled $878 million.
Florida has collected more than $3 billion in opioid litigation against drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies, according to attorney general Ashley Moody. Most of the money will be spent on efforts to mitigate the opioid crisis in the state.
There has been a wave of recent settlements by companies facing allegations over their part in the opioid crisis, which has led to more than 500,000 U.S. deaths from overdoses in the past two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed against drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies over the crisis.
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