CVS Says Florida's Opioid Claim 'Without Merit’

Nov 19, 2018

The nation's second-largest drugstore chain says Florida's lawsuit alleging that it helped fuel the state's opioid crisis "is without merit."

CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis issued a statement Saturday saying the company is "dedicated to helping reduce prescription drug abuse and diversion." That includes training pharmacists and their assistants and public education efforts.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced late Friday that she added Walgreens and CVS to a state-court lawsuit filed last spring against Purdue Pharma, the maker of oxycontin, and several opioid distributors.

Bondi said in a press release the companies "played a role in creating the opioid crisis."

Walgreens declined to comment.

Bondi said the companies failed to stop "suspicious orders of opioids" and "dispensed unreasonable quantities of opioids from their pharmacies." On average, about 45 people die nationally each day because of opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We will continue to pursue those companies that played a role in creating the opioid crisis," said Bondi, who has been mentioned as a possible replacement by President Donald Trump for recently ousted U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "Thousands of Floridians have suffered as a result of the actions of the defendants."

But DeAngelis said CVS trains its pharmacists and their assistants about their responsibilities when dispensing controlled substances and gives them tools to detect potentially illegal sales.

"Over the past several years, CVS has taken numerous actions to strengthen our existing safeguards to help address the nation's opioid epidemic," DeAngelis said.

Until a law enforcement crackdown at the beginning of the decade, Florida was known for its so-called pain mills. Drug dealers from throughout the country would send associates to store-front clinics where unscrupulous doctors would write opioid prescriptions for bogus injuries and illnesses. At one point, 90 of the nation's top 100 opioid prescribers were Florida doctors, according to federal officials.

After receiving the prescriptions, the phony patients would buy the pills from Florida pharmacies — state law says pharmacists must refuse to fill prescriptions they suspect are not for a valid purpose. Most of the opioids would then be taken out of state to be resold illegally at huge markups, creating a drug crisis in many communities throughout the Eastern United States.