Dangerous Drugs

Walmart charged by the DOJ for their participation in America's Opioid Crisis

May 5, 2021

Walmart is facing a major lawsuit filed against them by the US Department of Justice. Walmart is facing allegations that they failed to screen prescriptions properly and did not report suspicious activity by doctors who repeatedly prescribed opioids for illegitimate medical purposes. Walmart could potentially lose billions if the allegations prove true.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a nationwide lawsuit against Walmart Inc. According to the complaint filed by the DOJ, Walmart pharmacies across the country have allegedly dispensed controlled substances unlawfully. Amid the country’s prescription opioid crisis, Walmart participated in the unlawful distribution of such drugs from their pharmacies by failing to identify, deny and report suspicious or illegitimate subscriptions. If convicted, Walmart could lose billions to make good on the hundreds of thousands of violations they have allegedly broken.  

The DOJ brought these charges against Walmart for their violations of the Controlled Substance Act (CSA). The CSA, developed to protect consumers from highly addictive substances that have higher potentials for abuse, requires pharmacies to have several protective measures in place. Two important requirements of the CSA are:

  • A pharmacist must confirm that the prescription was issued for a legitimate medical purpose and in the “usual course of professional practice.”
  • A pharmacist must uphold professional pharmacist practice standards, which include spotting and resolving “red flags.”

In addition to the pharmacy requirements that must be followed, Walmart also functions as the distributor of controlled substances to its pharmacies. Thus, they are bound to federal regulations required by all drug distributors. Primarily, distributors must detect and report suspicious pharmaceutical orders for controlled substances so that doctors and “pill mills” that are writing these suspicious subscriptions can be identified and investigated. Distributors who fail to abide by these rules subject themselves to civil penalties.  

As investigators and lawyers began examining Walmart’s adherence to the CSA, multiple violations were found to be connected to Walmart based on their practices as a wholesale drug distributor as well as their pharmacies. Specifically, Walmart pharmacies have been accused of knowingly filling prescriptions that were not issued for legitimate medical purposes or within the standard course of medical practice.  

Walmart also fell seriously short in its role as a distributor of controlled substances. As the DOJ’s claim points out, it was well within the massive corporation’s means to detect problems with controlled substance orders and help its store pharmacies to deal with them in a safe, orderly manner that complied with CSA requirements.

If found guilty of these allegations, Walmart could be forced to pay a hefty price for its actions. If the DOJ succeeds in establishing the corporation’s liability for its CSA violations, it could cost the company as much as $67,627 for each prescription it unlawfully filled and $15,691 for each unreported suspicious order.  

With the size of Walmart and the potential impact of such allegations, this case will have major implications on how those who participated, profited, and furthered the opioid crisis will be handled in our judicial system. We will continue to monitor this case as it develops and we will make sure to keep you up to date with the latest news.

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