Walgreens Reaches Deal With New Mexico Over Opioid Crisis

(Reuters) – Walgreens Boots Alliance has agreed to pay $500 million to New Mexico to settle claims that its pharmacies helped fuel opioid addiction in the state by failing to stop illegal pill sales, lawyers for the state announced on Friday.

The settlement, the largest obtained by New Mexico against a single company over opioids, came after a non-jury trial last year in the state’s lawsuit against the company. The judge overseeing that trial had not yet ruled on the state’s claims.

“We are confident that this record settlement positions New Mexico to turn the tide on this deadly epidemic,” Mark Pifko, a lawyer for the state, said in a statement.

New Mexico has now settled all of its major opioid-related lawsuits, recovering more than $1 billion including Friday’s deal, Pifko said.

Walgreens did not admit wrongdoing in the settlement. A spokesperson for the company declined to comment.

More than half a million people died from drug overdoses in the United States from 1999 to 2020, with opioids playing an outsized role. Overdose deaths have risen further since then, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Mexico’s lawsuit against Walgreens was one of more than 3,300 filed by state and local governments accusing pharmacies and distributors of ignoring red flags that opioids were being diverted to the black market, and drugmakers of downplaying the risks of the addictive pain drugs.

The litigation, now winding down, has resulted in more than $50 billion in settlements, including a $5.7 billion nationwide deal between states and Walgreens in which New Mexico did not take part.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Additional reporting by Dietrich Knauth; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Alexia Garamfalvi)

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