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Walgreens helped fuel San Francisco’s opioid crisis, judge says

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Walgreens helped fuel San Francisco’s opioid epidemic by shipping and distributing the addictive drugs without due diligence, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

In a 112-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer pointed to shortcomings of the company responsible for shipping nearly 1 in 5 oxycodone and hydrocodone tablets distributed nationwide at the height of the coronavirus crisis. opioids. Walgreens, the only pharmaceutical company sued by San Francisco that did not reach a settlement and went to trial in April, ‘contributed significantly’ to the crisis by failing to stop suspicious orders and the diversion of drugs for illicit purposes , causing a public nuisance, Breyer wrote.

“Walgreens has regulatory obligations to take reasonable steps to prevent drugs from being diverted and harming the public,” Breyer wrote. “The evidence at trial established that Walgreens breached these obligations.”

A lawsuit will be held later to determine how much the company should pay the city to deal with the harms of the opioid crisis.

Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman said the company was “disappointed” with the decision and would appeal.

“As we have said throughout this process, we have never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor distributed them to the ‘pill mills’ and internet pharmacies that have fueled this crisis,” a- he wrote in an email. “We support the professionalism and integrity of our pharmacists, dedicated healthcare professionals who live in the communities they serve. »

Peter Mougey, an attorney representing San Francisco and other communities across the country fighting drug companies, said the verdict would help in other cases.

“Walgreens hid, concealed and fled the truth throughout this five-year litigation,” he said. “Walgreens knew its system for detecting and stopping suspicious orders was non-existent, but continued to ship opioids at an alarming rate to boost its profits. San Francisco is now about to begin the healing process. »

The decision comes after the company reached a $683 million settlement with the state of Florida in May, ending a lawsuit in state court. In November, an Ohio jury found that the company, along with CVS and Walmart, contributed to the opioid crisis in two counties — the first such decision in a pharmacy case.

This story is growing and will be updated.

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