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Opioid Pharma Chains Denied Delay Implementing Court-Ordered Changes

Posted on February 20, 2023

Last week, a federal judge in charge of opioid litigation ordered pharmacy chains to begin implementing new business practices after months of unsuccessful attempts to reach an alternative compromise.

The changes were part of an injunction ordered by US District Judge Aaron Polster, who said they were “common sense provisions” that were unfortunately not part of the earlier national settlements. The injunction applies to Lake and Trumbull Counties in Ohio, but Judge Polster believes including the changes in an injunction makes it “much more likely” pharmacies will implement the changes nationwide.

The injunction ordered Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS to implement a Controlled Substance Compliance Program, aimed at lessening the availability of prescription opioids and stemming the national opioid crisis. The program would include implementing a hotline for the reporting of suspected prescription abuse and instituting a Prescription Validation Process, laying out procedures for pharmacists to track and reconcile “patient red flags.”

Originally issued on August 17 of last year, the defendant pharmacies and county plaintiffs have been attempting to come to an agreement, modifying the terms of the injunction so that both parties approve of the changes. However, after delaying the injunction on three separate occasions, Judge Polster denied the pharmacies latest motion for a stay and instead ordered them to begin implementing the injunction.

The injunction is in addition to a $650 million abatement plan the court ordered the pharmacies to pay. The abatement plan was also stayed during unsuccessful negotiations to modify the injunction order.

Both Walmart and Walgreens have previously stated they intend to ask for a stay of the decision if a compromise couldn’t be reached, and Judge Polster went ahead with his ruling on the injunction.

The cases are County of Lake, Ohio v. Purdue Pharma, L.P., et al., Case No. 18-op-45032; and County of Trumbull, Ohio v. Purdue Pharma, L.P., et al., Case No. 18-op-45079.

The opinion and order can be found here.