State adds CVS, Walgreens to opioid suit

By John Breslin | Nov 30, 2018

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has added the country's two largest pharmacies to a suit that accuses drug manufacturers and distributors of helping to fuel the opioid crisis.

The amended complaint alleges CVS and Walgreens participated in the distribution chain by overselling powerful pain killers. In a statement, Bondi stated, " Thousands of Floridians have suffered as a result of the actions of the defendants.”

The attorney general also added manufacturer Insys Therapeutics Inc. to the suit, alleging the company provided kick backs to doctors for writing prescriptions for Subsys, a product that contains fentanyl.

Manufacturers and distributors were first targeted in May when Bondi filed her original suit in Pasco County Circuit Court. Her action mirrors dozens across the country -- by states, counties, and municipalities -- targeting those alleged to be involved in flooding the country with opioids.

Orlando health care lawyer, George Indest, who has defended doctors and pain management clinics in previous waves of actions clamping down on the distribution of pain medications, said he believes the original law suit "targeted the right entities," the manufacturers and distributors.

"I think that law suit has targeted the right entities … if they are putting out a drug on the market with inherent defects, they are responsible," Indest told the Florida Record. "My opinion is if they have to go after anyone, they must go after the manufacturers."

But the attorney is concerned that these latest actions -- including to some extent the targeting of the big pharmacies -- will pour down and sweep up "the little guy," both doctors and smaller pharmacies.

Indest also believes Congress must take some responsibility for the crisis, for failing to pass laws to regulate the manufacture and distribution of the drugs when the dangers were known for years.

At different levels, Florida has seen more actions to combat the sale of pain pills than other state.

A crackdown on pill mill doctor/pharmacists has led to their viritual elimination, Walgreens paid $80 million to settle a federal suit accusing it of allowing powerful medications to filter on to the black market.

As far back as 2002, Purdue, makers of OxyContin, was sued by Florida, which alleged unscrupulous marketing practices to boost sales. It was settled when the drug company agreed to pay $2 million for a computer database to track sales.

"Over the past several years, CVS has taken numerous actions to strengthen our existing safeguards to help address the nation's opioid epidemic," CVS spokesman Mike DeAnglelis said in response to the amended suit.

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