Walmart files pre-emotional lawsuit against federal government in opioid case

Walmart Inc.

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The Department of Justice sued the federal government in an attempt to strike a pre-emptive blow against what it said was an opioid-related civil lawsuit.

The retail company said in a lawsuit filed Thursday that the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration are seeking a reward from the federal government for its regulatory and enforcement shortcomings in fighting the opioid crisis. Walmart said the government is seeking tougher financial penalties against retailers for allegedly contributing to the opioid crisis by filling out questionable prescriptions.

The lawsuit alleges the department and Attorney General William Barr were named by defendants and the DEA and its acting administrator, Timothy Shena. It wants a federal judge to declare that the government has no legal basis for pharmacists seeking civil damages from a company based on claims filled with valid prescriptions that they should have a red flag raised.

Walmart, the U.S. With more than 5,000 in-store pharmacies operating in the country, he said the government’s “threatening action would be unprecedented.” It said the government did not allege that the company was filling out altered prescriptions, or that its pharmacists had improper relationships with patients or doctors.

“In the shadow of their own failures, the DOJ and DEA now seek to impose pharmacists and pharmacists on inefficient requirements that are not covered by the law and go beyond training and licensing pharmacists,” the company said in the lawsuit. , U.S. for the Eastern District of Texas. Applied to the District Court.

The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Walmart’s claim is an unusual and aggressive tactic for the company in a high-stakes conversation with the department. His claim requires that the Department of Justice not take any action, but it can give a weapon against any case of the government by accepting the opinion of the company on the law from the court decision.

Quicken Loans Inc. A similar tactic was used against the federal government in 2001 to prevent mortgage fraud, but the case, which was settled by the Justice Department last year, will be prosecuted weeks later.

Walmart said the department has identified hundreds of specialized doctors with problematic written prescriptions that the company says pharmacists should not allegedly pay. But, about 70% of those doctors continue to be active DEA registrants, the company said.

“In other words, defendants and Wal-Mart want to blame Walmart for continuing to fill out bad prescriptions written by doctors that the DEA and state regulators enabled to write those prescriptions in the first place and continue to do so today.”

Walmart is one of several large companies that have been sued by state and local governments for allegedly helping to escalate the opioid crisis. About 1,000,000 cases have been settled in federal court in Ohio, where a judge has forced both parties to settle for nearly three years.

Plaintiffs focused less on Walmart in the early days of the iopioid lawsuit, although the company has since been sued by counties and a handful of states across the country for its role as a distributor and pharmacy of opioids in its own stores.

Ohio’s two counties are set to hear Walmart next year. The retailer is accused of failing to stop high volume orders of controlled items that should be known to be being rotated for improper use. In an amended complaint filed in June, the plaintiff claimed that Walmart did not have a formal policy to seize suspicious orders until 201, and that the DEA had not yet flagged any such orders. The lawsuit alleges the Ohio city of Courtland, where a Walmart store purchased enough xy xycodan and hydrocodone from 2006 to 2014, each of the 7,100 people living there received 29 pills a year.

Walmart pharmacists felt pressured to fill prescriptions quickly, the plaintiff claimed, adding that there is an incentive bonus attached to the volume. Walmart stopped serving as its own distributor of controlled substances in 2018.

Walmart has denied the allegations, saying opioid distribution is a small part of the company’s business.

Earlier, the Justice Department issued a U.S. injunction for the Eastern District of Texas. Based on the attorney’s fees, a criminal investigation was launched, relating to the distribution of opioids by Walmart. In Washington, the department’s leadership decided in 2018 to bring charges, according to the company’s lawsuit.

The department’s decision not to take action was previously reported by Propblica. Wartmart said in its complaint that federal prosecutors allege “the use of the threat of criminal charges to force the company to pay civil penalties.”

The company argues that the federal government is putting it in a precarious position, as pharmacists face occupational and legal risks – and potential harm to patients – if they reject prescriptions, but face federal liability if they pay them and the government Determines. They should not have.

Early civil settlement negotiations in the comprehensive io peoid legal proceedings have focused on the country’s three largest drug distributors, Cardinal Health. Inc.,

Emersourceburgen plc and McKesson Corpo.

, As well as major drug manufacturers such as Johnson & Johnson.

States are close to a settlement of 26 26.4 billion with these four companies and are in discussions with others above and below the pharmaceutical supply chain.

Some of the targets of the lawsuit, including oxycontin manufacturer Pardu Pharma LP, have filed for bankruptcy in an attempt to prosecute. As part of a અને 8.34 billion settlement of civil and criminal investigations pursued by the Justice Department, Purdue agreed this week to convict three criminals related to the marketing and distribution of oxycontin.

Walmart was among six pharmacies set to go to joint court hearing in November in the cases of Kuahhoga and Summit County, Ohio. However the judge recently adjourned the hearing indefinitely citing the coronavirus epidemic. The trial was set up to focus on the role of pharmacists as distributors of io pioids in their own stores, but did not include allegations related to distributing drugs to consumers.

Write to Brent Kendall at [email protected] and Sara Reradazo at [email protected]

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