Scrabble pieces spelling out the words malpractice, justice, pain, and injury

The widespread misuse of medications through unnecessary prescriptions gave rise to the U.S. Opioid Epidemic. But aside from medications, medical devices can also be wrongly recommended and advertised by giant pharmaceutical companies. The Paragard Lawsuits provide strong evidence that faulty medical devices which are falsely authorized can mean devastating physical, emotional and mental consequences for the victims. Or in Walmart’s case, doubtful prescriptions.

What Prompted The Lawsuit

The Justice Department sued Walmart on Tuesday, accusing the country’s largest retailer of helping fuel the opioid crisis by unlawfully filling problematic prescriptions despite constant reminders from the retail giant’s own pharmacists.

The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Delaware claims that Walmart inadequately screened prescriptions and pressured its employees to fill prescriptions fast, which made it hard for pharmacists to reject prescriptions which they deem invalid. The whole circumstance allowed nationwide drug abuse to happen, the suit contends. 

Jeffrey Bossert Clark, the civil division’s acting assistant attorney general, said that due to the fact that the company is one of the largest pharmacy chains and drug distributors in the U.S., they have the “responsibility and the means to help prevent the diversion of prescription opioids.”

“Instead, for years, it did the opposite — filling thousands of invalid prescriptions at its pharmacies and failing to report suspicious orders of opioids and other drugs placed by those pharmacies,” Clark added.

Walmart Responds

Photo of Walmart pharmacy with a cashier inside and a customer

Walmart responded on the same day, calling the investigation “tainted” and has been noted to say in a statement that instead of blaming pharmacists, the DOJ should divert its attention to bad doctors who questionably prescribed opioids in the first place. 

“This lawsuit invents a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors, and is riddled with factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents taken out of context,” the company added.

From One Lawsuit To Another

Photo of a gavel with the scales of justice

Walmart has seen this lawsuit coming. In October, the country’s largest retailer sued the federal government to preemptively deny the allegations made against them. The lawsuit claims that the DOJ and DEA look at Walmart as a sacrificial piece by blaming it for what they claim as the federal government’s own enforcement failures.  

The government’s lawsuit asserts that Walmart adopted a system where the number of prescriptions filled by an employee will be subject to monetary incentives, which turned its pharmaceutical chains into main sources of addictive painkillers, and these allegations were made as early as 2013.

Another allegation mentioned in the lawsuit was how Walmart made the opioids cheaper. A move that, according to the claims, made customers flock to their stores. Middle managers also acted under the influence of executives form the company headquarters and forced pharmacists to quick-fill prescriptions which encouraged customers to patronize the store and continue shopping.

The suit was also found to contain statements regarding pharmacists reportedly warning higher-ups from the company that the Texas and Oklahoma branches of Walmart were “getting slammed” due to problematic prescriptions from a doctor in East Texas who was being examined by the federal government. One pharmacist stated that the doctor accepted most payments in cash and he did not entertain questions from the pharmacy as well. 

Something Still Needs To Be Done

According to government data, the U.S. was witness to about 50,000 life-threatening opioid overdoses in 2019, an all-time high after what seemed to be a brief pause from increasing cases a year before. The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention showed evidence last week that the opioid crisis is aggravating in the midst of a pandemic, making treatment difficult while dealing with isolation.

In 2018, President Trump urged the Justice Department to target abusive opioid maker companies by asking then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to file lawsuits against drug companies which “are really sending opioids at a level that it shouldn’t be happening.”

Ever since Trump’s order, Purdue Pharma LP was held accountable and has been found guilty on three counts of federal felonies in relation to the questionable ways it marketed and distributed OxyContin, the company’s opioid painkiller.

 

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