(KRON) — Walgreens will pay the City of San Francisco a $230 million settlement after city officials brought a suit against the pharmaceutical company. The settlement is the largest award provided to a local jurisdiction from an opioid defendant since the onset of the opioid epidemic.
The announcement was made on the steps of San Francisco City Hall Wednesday morning. Payments from Walgreens will come in stages over the next eight years, completing in 2030. The first $57 million will be paid by June of 2024, according to San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu.
A federal court found that Walgreens “substantially contributed” to the opioid epidemic, and has heavily impacted San Francisco, Chiu said.
“Extremely dangerous and addictive opioids were marketed to patients as safe. We now know that was a blatant lie.” — David Chiu
This resulted in millions of Americans ultimately becoming dependent on opioids. Walgreens is one of the largest pharmaceutical providers in the San Francisco area.
“They were more concerned with profit than following their legal obligations… pressuring their pharmacists to fill, fill, fill,” Chiu said.
Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California wrote the decision against the pharmaceutical giant in August 2022.
“Walgreens, San Francisco pharmacies received over 1,200,000 ‘red flag’ opioid prescriptions,” Breyer writes. Though the law required pharmacists to complete due diligence on questionable opioid prescription requests, due diligence was performed on less than 5% of the prescriptions that were filled, according to Chiu.
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“There was persuasive evidence showing how abuse of prescription opioids often leads to the use of illicit opioids including heroin and fentanyl,” Breyer writes. As addiction becomes more severe, users tend to seek out stronger, cheaper supplies.
The opioid crisis ultimately led to the rise of fentanyl, a cheap and potentially fatal opioid often laced into other street drugs. In 2022 alone, there were more than 450 overdose deaths connected to fentanyl here in San Francisco.
“We must remember that some of the most profitable companies in the world engineered this public health crisis,” Chiu said.
“There is no amount of money that will bring back the lives we have lost due to this epidemic… We mourn our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers. But the one thing we can do as lawyers is to fight for justice. to ensure that those who cause harm are held accountable.”
Chiu said $130 million had already been awarded to the city of San Francisco in previous litigation against various opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies. Walgreens was the final defendant in the cases.