Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) announced on Tuesday that he and 15 other state attorneys general have negotiated a preliminary deal with the multinational retailer Walmart, from which Ohio would get $114 million for opioid recovery programs.
The $3.1 billion national agreement comes after Yost and other prosecutors sought accountability for what they characterize as the superstore’s failure to safely and securely dispense high-strength prescription pain relievers through its more than 5,100 pharmacies across America. Other state prosecutor’s offices who worked alongside him include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee and Texas.
These state law-enforcement officials coalesced to undertake investigations of Walmart over allegations that many fraudulent or dubious prescriptions have been filled as a result of negligence.
In a statement, Walmart’s corporate leadership said it “believes the settlement framework is in the best interest of all parties and will provide significant aid to communities across the country in the fight against the opioid crisis” but denies allegations made in the probes and litigation that have brought the company to this point.
“Walmart is proud of our pharmacists and our efforts to help fight the opioid crisis,” the statement read. “Walmart strongly disputes the allegations in these matters, and this settlement framework does not include any admission of liability. Walmart will continue to vigorously defend the company against any lawsuit not resolved through this settlement framework.”
Local governments would largely be responsible for administering the treatment and rehabilitation efforts funded by the prospective settlement. Walmart would also have to implement stronger security measures at its pharmacies as a result of the deal.
“Anytime we can get a worldwide company like Walmart to implement systematic changes that will benefit Ohioans long-term, I’d say that’s a significant win,” Yost said on Tuesday. “This resolution brings meaningful relief to our communities in need. Let’s put this money to good use.”
At least 43 states must sign on to the agreement before it goes into effect. The states must do so before the end of the year. Yost urged them to participate and anticipated their doing so will end up improving the well-being of many struggling individuals.
“This agreement puts financial incentives in place that could make a real difference in the lives of Ohioans,” he said. “I hope other companies will follow Walmart in reaching a national agreement.”
Drug overdoses have been the leading cause of unnatural death in the Buckeye State since 2007. Fatalities resulting from unintentional poisoning by controlled substances reached 5,204 in 2021. That year, drug-overdose mortality per capita in Ohio surpassed that of every state except for Delaware, Kentucky. and West Virginia.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, about four-fifths of accidental drug-related fatalities in the state are wholly or partially result from use of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.
Yost noted his office has secured a number of recent settlements with opioid distributors, including $808 million from Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen; $185 million settlement from Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc.; and $24.7 million from McKinsey & Co.
– – –
Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Ohio Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Dave Yost” by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Background Photo “Walmart Store” by Mike Mozart. CC BY 2.0.