U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of the United States District Court in Northern California ruled on Wednesday that Walgreens “substantially contributed to an opioid epidemic in San Francisco”.
The lawsuit, which was brought on by the City and County of San Francisco, originally had dozens of defendants. Only four of these defendants remained when a trial was held in April. By the end of the closing arguments which took place in July 2022, only Walgreens remained. The other three defendants settled their cases, according to court documents.
Judge Breyer agreed that the trial established between 2006 and 2020 that “Walgreens pharmacies in San Francisco dispensed hundreds of thousands of red flag opioid prescriptions without performing adequate due diligence”. Performing this due diligence would have led to pharmacists catching doctors with suspect prescribing patterns. Walgreens for its part did not provide adequate staff, training, or resources that would have allowed pharmacists to perform this due diligence. Instead, Walgreens put “constant pressure to fill prescriptions as quickly as possible, and a shortage of resources to review them before dispensing”. This led pharmacies to dispense “large volumes of medically illegitimate opioid prescriptions that were diverted for illicit use and that substantially contributed to the opioid epidemic in San Francisco.”.
Judge Breyer also ruled that Walgreens is liable for “substantially contributing to the public nuisance in San Francisco.” but stopped short of saying just how liable. This will be determined by another trial.
If you or anyone you know struggles with addiction, you can contact the SAMHSA National Helpline (1-800-662-4357). This is a free service.
The case is styled CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, et al., Plaintiffs, v. PURDUE PHARMA L.P., et al., and can be found in the Northern District of California. (Case No. 18-cv-07591-CRB)