Washington AG sues pharmacy chains over opioids

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday that his office is suing Kroger, Albertsons and Rite Aid, arguing their pharmacy chains failed to act as the “final barrier” against opioid over-prescription.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in King County Superior Court, is the latest effort by Ferguson and other attorneys general throughout the U.S. to hold businesses responsible for their part in allowing prescription opioids to proliferate, The Seattle Times reported.

More than 12,000 Washingtonians died of an opioid overdose between 2006 and 2021, according to the lawsuit.

“During the opioid crisis over the last decade, these companies ignored federal regulations, put profits over safety, and knowingly oversupplied opioids in our state,” Ferguson said at a news conference in Seattle.

The attorney general is suing the companies under state law, accusing them of violating the state’s consumer protection and public nuisance laws.

The Associated Press has sent messages to the three companies seeking comment.

“Washingtonians trust pharmacies to be responsible,” Ferguson said. “They depend on that for their health. Pharmacies serve an important role as the final barrier to prevent overprescribing controlled substances or any prescription drugs. But that is not what happened in many cases.”

Ferguson said the companies have paid fines for violating federal rules concerning opioid prescriptions, but the fines “are not enough to achieve meaningful accountability.” He said the pharmacies helped fuel an illegal market for opioids by oversupplying the drugs.

Ferguson also said Wednesday he signed multistate resolutions with CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies, as well as Teva and Allergan pharmaceutical companies, for their roles in opioid use. Those resolutions, once finalized, could bring $434.4 million to the state, the Attorney General’s Office estimated.

That money must be used to combat the opioid epidemic and will be divided between the state and local governments.

The recent resolutions are in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars the state has secured after legal battles against opioid makers and distributors.