CVS, Walgreens And Walmart Agree To $12 Billion Global Opioid Settlement

CVS, Walgreens and Walmart – the nation’s three largest retail U.S. pharmacy chains — have agreed “in principle” to pay $12 billion in a massive global settlement to resolve claims they contributed to the opioid epidemic.

Bloomberg News was the first major news outlet to report Tuesday night that CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart have “tentatively agreed to pay more than $12 billion to resolve thousands of state and local government lawsuits accusing the chains of mishandling opioid painkillers.” Bloomberg cited “people familiar with the matter” as its sources on the settlement.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the nationwide opioid crisis has led to more than a half million deaths from overdose in the last 20 years. Walmart, CVS and Walgreens combined have more than 23,000 U.S. pharmacies.

None of the U.S. drugstore chains reached Tuesday night agreed to comment on the reports or a proposed settlement. CVS is scheduled to report its third quarter earnings on Wednesday when more details of its share of the potential settlement could be disclosed.

According to reports and sources close to the companies, CVS is expected to pay $5 billion, Walgreens about $4 billion and Walmart will pay $3 billion. The settlement still has to be agreed to by the states, counties and other government entities involved in the discussions and who stand to reap the payouts.

But none of the retail pharmacy chains are admitting to wrongdoing, according to sources close to the company and media reports Tuesday night.

Investigations by state and federal attorneys as well as lawyers in private practices representing families of opioid victims have cited the role of distributors and pharmacies in the epidemic. A 2019 investigative report in the Washington Post said Walgreens “handled nearly one in five of the most addictive opioids” at the peak of the crisis surrounding the painkiller and acted as its “own distributor.”