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CVS and Walgreens finalize $10 billion in opioid settlements

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CVS and Walgreens have agreed to pay state and local governments a combined total of more than $10 billion to settle lawsuits over the opioid toll and now want to know by Dec. 31 whether states accept the deals.

The states on Monday announced the final details of the regulations that the two largest drugstore chains in the United States proposed last month.

The agreements are among the largest in a wave of proposed and finalized opioid settlements in recent years, totaling more than $50 billion. Another major pharmacy operator, Walmart, also agreed to a settlement last month for $3.1 billion.

Although the lawyers involved in the cases are in line for a cut in payments, most of the money is to be used to tackle an overdose epidemic that has only worsened in recent years.

Opioids have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States over the past two decades, with the most casualties in recent years. The drugs responsible for the majority of deaths have shifted from prescription painkillers to illicitly produced fentanyl, which is often mixed with other illicit drugs.

In the 2010s, state and local governments filed thousands of lawsuits seeking to hold the pharmaceutical industry responsible for the crisis. Major drugmakers and distribution companies have already agreed to settlements.

Now pharmacies, which have faced allegations that they should have realized they were filling too many opioid prescriptions, are following suit.

Under separate agreements, states have until the end of the year to agree to drop opioid claims against Walgreens and CVS in order to receive the maximum payouts.

If there are not enough participating states, companies can opt out.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement Monday that California could get up to $510 million in the Walgreens settlement. He said the state is still evaluating the terms of the CVS deal.

“To all those struggling with substance use disorders, to all those in desperate need of treatment and recovery options — help is on the way,” Bonta said.

Other states, including Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania, have indicated they accept the terms of both settlements.

If there are enough state signatures, local governments can also sign for shares.

The amount given to governments is based on their populations and the severity of the opioid crisis there. States will receive larger amounts if more of their local governments agree.

Walgreens payments could total up to $5.52 billion over 15 years. CVS payments could reach $4.9 billion over 10 years. Additionally, the companies announced interim payments to Native American tribes totaling more than $250 million.

Like other opioid deals, the accords ask governments that receive money to use it to tackle the drug crisis.

Under these agreements, approximately $1.2 billion would be earmarked for attorneys’ fees and legal expenses.

The companies have also agreed to monitor, report and share data on suspicious activity related to opioid prescriptions.

“CVS and Walgreens have flooded our cities and towns with bottle upon bottle of pills in callous disregard for the suffering caused by their actions,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement Monday. “Our settlement mandates significant changes to their business practices, including court-ordered oversight to ensure the checks and balances that should have been in place all along will now be applied aggressively.”

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ABC News

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