CVS and Walgreens have agreed in principle to pay a combined $10 billion to resolve opioid lawsuits, the pharmacy chains announced Wednesday.
CVS would pay $4.9 billion to states and political subdivisions, like cities and counties, and around $130 million to tribes over 10 years, starting next year, according to a release from the company.
The tentative settlement from CVS would resolve lawsuits and claims involving the addictive painkillers going back a decade or more, though the company says the non-monetary terms are yet to be finalized.
“We are pleased to resolve these longstanding claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” said CVS Health’s Chief Policy Officer Thomas Moriarty.
Walgreens also announced Wednesday that it agreed in principle to pay approximately $4.95 billion to states, subdivisions and tribes and to settle all opioid claims against it, according to a release. The funds would be paid over a 15-year period.
“As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation, we remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and wellbeing of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis,” Walgreens said in a statement.
Both companies underscored that the payments are not an admission of liability or wrongdoing. But, if the agreements go through, the settlements could be some of the biggest connected to the opioid crisis.
Bloomberg reported that Walmart Inc. has also tentatively agreed to pay around $3 billion to resolve opioid suits.
A group of court-appointed negotiators involved in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL, or multi-district litigation, called the tentative agreement “an important step in our efforts to hold pharmacy defendants accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic that continues to devastate individual lives, as well as entire cities and states.”
Pharmacy centers like CVS and Walgreens have recently come under new scrutiny for their role in the opioid crisis.
Opioids are the main driver of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC, and many cases involve prescription opioids, which can be dispensed at pharmacies.
From 1999 to 2020, more than 263,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses involving prescription opioids.
A study released earlier this year estimated that 1.2 million people in the U.S. and Canada could die by 2029 if governments don’t take action against industries that facilitate opioid use.
CVS said in its Wednesday statement that the company has also taken a number of initiatives to combat opioid abuse, ranging from educational programs on prescription drug misuse to new tech to deter opioid robberies.
Walgreens has taken similar steps, like making the opioid overdose reversal medication Naloxone available at all pharmacies.
Updated 10:26 a.m.