In one of his final acts before leaving office, Attorney General Bill Barr has taken action against Walmart for its alleged role in pushing deadly opioids on Americans.
Barr’s Justice Department is suing the retailer for potentially billions in damages in civil court, according to the Washington Examiner.
DOJ sues Walmart
According to a press release, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has accused Walmart of violating the Controlled Substances Act by filling “thousands of invalid prescriptions at its pharmacies” and failing to report hundreds of thousands of suspicious drug deliveries at its distribution centers to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Walmart, which operates 5,000 pharmacies, stopped its pharmacists from refusing to fill dubious prescriptions, the DOJ claims in the suit, according to the Associated Press.
The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of Delaware, says that Walmart could be liable for nearly $70,000 per prescription and almost $16,000 per order, Reuters notes.
In the DOJ’s release, Jeffrey Bossert Clark, acting assistant attorney general of the Civil Division, said that Walmart “had the responsibility and the means to help prevent the diversion of prescription opioids” but instead filled “thousands of invalid prescriptions at its pharmacies and [failed] to report suspicious orders of opioids and other drugs.”
Walmart pushes back
Walmart, which filed a preemptive lawsuit in October, has said that they were vigilant about tracking pill pushers and that the government is at fault.
According to the BBC, the company slammed the DOJ’s lawsuit as “riddled with factual inaccuracies” and accused the DOJ of seeking to invent “a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors.”
“Walmart sent DEA tens of thousands of investigative leads, and we blocked thousands of questionable doctors from having their opioid prescriptions filled at our pharmacies,” the company said, according to the Washington Examiner.
Opioid crisis ravages America
The lawsuit from the DOJ marks the latest move by the Trump administration to respond to a crisis that claimed the lives of 450,000 Americans between 1998 and 2018, with prescription opioids accounting for 230,000 of those deaths alone, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Public sentiment to hold responsible corporations like Purdue, owned by the Sackler family, has grown over the years. In October, the OxyContin maker agreed to plead guilty to three criminal charges and to pay $8 billion in a settlement, the AP reported.
The coronavirus, and attendant lockdowns resulting in pervasive isolation and economic suffering, are thought to be exacerbating the crisis. Drug overdose deaths hit a record high this year, the CDC said, according to Fox News.