CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed lawsuits against Rite-Aid and Walgreens alleging the two opioid distributors reaped billions of dollars in revenues, while their conduct caused immense harm to West Virginia and its citizens.
The lawsuits allege Rite-Aid and Walgreens, as individual distributors, supplied far more opioids to their retail pharmacies than necessary to meet a legitimate market, and not even that was enough as the retail pharmacies ordered additional pills from other distributors to fulfill demand.
The Attorney General contends Rite-Aid and Walgreens each knew its obligation to halt suspicious orders to its retail pharmacies, but failed to monitor for and report such activity.
“Prescription opioid pill mills and rogue prescribers cannot channel opioids for illicit use without at least the tacit support and willful blindness of distributors, if not their knowing support,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Those who unconscionably help create our state’s opioid epidemic should be held accountable, pay for their role in the crisis and act to remediate the problem. West Virginia deserves nothing less.”
Each company was among the state’s top 10 opioid distributors from 2006 to 2014, during which the Rite-Aid lawsuit estimates it distributed the equivalent of more than 87 million, 10-milligram oxycodone pills and its retail pharmacies ordered another 127.5 million pills from other distributors to fulfill demand.
Likewise, the Walgreens complaint estimates it distributed the equivalent of 29.6 million pills and its pharmacies ordered another 17.6 million.
The lawsuit additionally points to a pattern of systemic failures at Walgreens to meet its legal obligations, which included development of a system to detect and block shipment of suspicious orders.
The civil complaints, filed Wednesday in Putnam County Circuit Court, do not assert claims related to either company’s role in dispensing opioids to patients, but maintain that such retail data offered Rite-Aid and Walgreens unique knowledge and notice that their operations were meeting more than a legitimate market demand.
Rather than report suspicious orders and stop diversion, the lawsuits allege Rite-Aid and Walgreens continued to sell, ship and profit from the highly dangerous and addictive prescription painkillers.
The Attorney General alleges conduct by Rite-Aid and Walgreens violated the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and caused a public nuisance. Both lawsuits seek injunctive and equitable relief.
Rite-Aid, the nation’s third-largest retail drug store chain in 2017, sold its 1,651 stores to Walgreens Boot Alliance between 2017 and 2018, including 104 stores in West Virginia.
This week’s civil complaints follow lawsuits filed last year against opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions Inc. and Mallinckrodt LLC