A federal choose dominated Wednesday that Walgreens helped gas the opioid epidemic by sending lots of of hundreds of “suspicious orders” to its pharmacies in San Francisco.

Greater than 100 million prescription opioid drugs had been distributed within the metropolis between 2006 and 2020, and through that point, the pharmacy big failed to look at lots of of hundreds of orders that had been deemed suspicious, stated US District Choose Charles Breuer. wrote in its 112-page opinion. In a lawsuit filed by San Francisco towards main prescription-drug distributors.

How a lot the corporate should pay will likely be decided at a later trial date.

“Walgreens has regulatory obligations to take acceptable steps to stop the drug from diverting and harming the general public,” Breuer wrote. “The trial’s proof established that Walgreens has breached these obligations.”

The general public nuisance lawsuit filed by town in 2018 included claims towards Johnson & Johnson, Allergan, Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Endo Worldwide, in addition to McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBurgen Corp and Cardinal Well being — the three largest nations. Pharmaceutical distributor in

Walgreens was the one firm that didn’t enter right into a settlement with town previous to the courtroom ruling. Johnson & Johnson and three drug distributors had been a part of a $26 billion nationwide deal earlier this 12 months.

In line with Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman, the corporate expressed disappointment with the courtroom’s resolution and stated it plans to enchantment.

“As we now have stated all through this course of, we by no means manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we distribute them to ‘capsule mills’ and the Web pharmacies that fueled this disaster,” he stated in a press release. . “We stand behind the professionalism and integrity of our pharmacists, the devoted well being care professionals who reside within the communities they serve.”

Peter Mauge, one of many attorneys representing town, stated the decision highlights the negligence displayed in failing to cease the opioid epidemic in San Francisco.

“The solar has set on Walgreens’ try to cover proof of its non-existent opioid compliance program, whereas as an alternative specializing in earnings by filling San Francisco with a tsunami of bullets,” he stated. “Choose Breuer’s 100-page order rigorously incorporates two months of proof introduced at trial. San Francisco can now take significant steps to scrub up Walgreens’ mess.”

The opioid disaster has ravaged San Francisco lately. In line with courtroom filings, emergency visits on account of opioids have elevated from 886 in 2015 to 2,998 in 2020. In 2019, roughly 40,958 out of 860,000 San Francisco residents suffered from opioid dependancy. In 2019, roughly 1,939 metropolis residents consumed opioids, a median of about 5.3 overdoses a day.

Breuer stated Walgreens distributed prescription opioids to its San Francisco pharmacies till 2014 with out checking orders or sustaining “an efficient system for figuring out suspicious orders.” The US Drug Enforcement Administration closed one of many firm’s three managed substance distribution facilities in 2012 after the middle didn’t survey suspicious orders. Walgreens ceased distribution of managed substances in 2014 and commenced outsourcing to third-party distributors.

Federal laws require corporations to verify “crimson flag” prescriptions and confirm that opioid prescriptions are medically legitimate earlier than distributing them. Walgreens distributed lots of of hundreds of “crimson flag” opioids with out investigation; In line with Breuer’s ruling, tens of hundreds of prescriptions had been “written by medical doctors with questionable prescribing patterns”.

The corporate additionally didn’t present sufficient staffing, time, or sources for pharmacists to adequately evaluation prescriptions, Breuer wrote. Pharmacists stated they endured “fixed stress to fill prescriptions as rapidly as doable.”

Breuer wrote, “Walgreens probably distributed “massive portions of medically illegitimate opioid prescriptions that had been diverted for illicit use and that contributed considerably to the opioid epidemic in San Francisco.”

The pharmacy big struck a $683 million settlement with the state of Florida earlier this 12 months over claims of distributing thousands and thousands of opioids, additional compounding the disaster.

In November, a federal jury in Ohio discovered that Walgreens, together with CVS and Walmart, negligently distributed drugs, leading to lots of of deaths and practically $1 billion in prices in two Ohio counties. The trial marked the primary time drug corporations have needed to defend themselves within the nation’s calculations of the opioid disaster.

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