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Tennessee sues Walgreens over opioid distribution


(Reuters) — The state of Tennessee sued Walgreens on Wednesday, accusing the retail pharmacy giant of fueling the state’s opioid epidemic by willfully flooding the market with an oversupply of prescription narcotics in violation of consumer protection and public nuisance laws.

According to the lawsuit, Walgreens used its position as one of the state's largest pharmacy chains to dispense over 1.1 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills within Tennessee from 2006 to 2020, roughly equivalent to 175 tablets for every resident of the state.

“The sheer volume of opioids that Walgreens released into Tennessee was unreasonable and highly suspicious on its face,” said the 148-page lawsuit, filed in Knox County Circuit Court. "Walgreens utterly saturated the state of Tennessee with narcotics.”

Walgreens has been the target of similar lawsuits brought by other jurisdictions.

In May, its corporate parent, the Illinois-based holding company Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., reached a $683 million settlement with Florida to resolve claims that the pharmacy chain exacerbated an opioid epidemic in that state. Walgreens did not admit to wrongdoing under the agreement

“We will continue to defend against the unjustified attacks on the professionalism of our pharmacists, dedicated health professionals who live in the communities they serve," the company said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Wednesday.

“Walgreens never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we distribute them to the pain clinics and ‘pill mills’ that fueled this crisis,” the company said.