Walmart Is Under Fire For Its Policies Around This Medication
The retail giant's pharmacy division prepares for legal troubles related to the devastating opioid crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic is, of course, the most pressing issue plaguing the health of Americans right now. But another epidemic is also quietly coming to the surface—the opioid crisis. According to a recent report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 1.6 million people in the U.S. have opioid use disorder of prescription pain killers like oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), codeine, and morphine. But things are starting to change and now Walmart's pharmacy practices regarding opioids are coming into question.
Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, said this week that it would plead guilty to three federal criminal charges for its role in creating the nation's opioid crisis, agreeing to pay more than $8 billion and close down the company, CNN reports. The move reflected the U.S. government's crack down on makers of over-prescribed, highly addictive painkillers. Just a day after the Purdue Pharma news broke, Reuters reported that Walmart Inc. made what seems to be a preemptive strike, filing a lawsuit against the federal government in which it calls for clearer legal parameters regarding the obligation of pharmacists to refuse filling a potentially dangerous prescription.
Here's what you need to know about Walmart's lawsuit and the massive impact the opioid crisis continues to have nationwide. And for more on medicine, check out This Commonly Prescribed Drug Has Just Been Recalled.
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The U.S. government says Walmart pharmacists acted unethically.
According to a statement from Walmart, the lawsuit is being filed in response to the U.S. Department of Justice's threat of legal action regarding the company's failure to refuse prescriptions they deemed unnecessary or dangerous.
"DOJ is forcing Walmart and our pharmacists between a rock and a hard place. At the same time that DOJ is threatening to sue Walmart for not going even further in second-guessing doctors, state health regulators are threatening Walmart and our pharmacists for going too far and interfering in the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors and patients also bring lawsuits when their opioid prescriptions are not filled." And for more news about the big-box retail chain, check out Walmart Is Starting to End Its Most Popular Program.
Walmart wants clarity on the legal responsibility of pharmacists.
Walmart is demanding the government to clarify what obligation—both legally and professionally—pharmacists have when it comes to making judgement decisions on whether or not to fill a particular prescription.
"We are bringing this lawsuit because there is no federal law requiring pharmacists to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship to the degree DOJ is demanding, and in fact expert federal and state health agencies routinely say it is not allowed and potentially harmful to patients with legitimate medical needs." And for another drug you should be wary of, check out This OTC Pain Medication Could Make You Take Dangerous Risks, Study Says.
Opioids have killed nearly half a million Americans in less than 10 years.
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that drug overdoses accounted for 72,041 deaths in the U.S.—50,828, or 70 percent, of those were caused by opioids. What's more, 450,000 people died in the U.S. between 1999 and 2018 from opioid overdoses—and two-thirds of all opioid deaths are caused by synthetic opioids manufactured by pharmaceutical companies and prescribed by doctors for pain management.
Overdoses are up in almost every state since the pandemic began.
Since COVID-19 turned everything upside down, the opioid epidemic has taken a turn for the worse. According to the latest statistics from the American Medical Association, more than 40 states have recorded increases in opioid-related deaths since the pandemic began. And for more helpful information delivered to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.