Walmart Sues Feds in Opioid Abuse Battle

Lawsuit is 'pre-emptive strike'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 23, 2020 12:15 AM CDT
Updated Oct 23, 2020 1:50 AM CDT
Walmart Sues Feds in Opioid Abuse Battle
In the suit, Walmart describes a government probe of the company that began in December 2016 and calls it a "misguided criminal investigation."   (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

Walmart is suing the US government in a pre-emptive strike in the battle over its responsibility in the opioid abuse crisis. The government is expected to take civil action against the world's largest retailer, seeking big financial penalties, for the role its pharmacies may have played in the crisis by filling opioid prescriptions. But on Thursday, Walmart filed a lawsuit saying the Justice Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration are blaming the company for the government's own lack of regulatory and enforcement policies to stem the crisis, the AP reports. Walmart says it is seeking a declaration from a federal judge that the government has no lawful basis for seeking civil damages from the company. It is also seeking to clarify its legal rights and duties under the Controlled Substance Act.

Walmart operates more than 5,000 pharmacies in its stores around the country, making it the third-biggest pharmacy chain in the US. "Walmart and its pharmacists find themselves in an untenable position," the company based in Bentonville, Arkansas, says in the lawsuit filed in the US District Court in the Eastern District of Texas. "Under defendants’ sweeping view, Walmart and its pharmacists may be held liable—perhaps even criminally—for failing to second-guess DEA-registered doctors and refuse their prescriptions. But if pharmacists do so, they may face the wrath of state medical boards, the medical community at large, individual doctors, and patients." (The maker of OxyContin has reached an $8.3 billion settlement with the government.)

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