Walmart offers $3.1 billion to settle opioid epidemic lawsuits against its pharmacies

retail giants Walmart on Tuesday became the latest major player in the pharmaceutical industry to announce plans to settle lawsuits filed by state and local governments about number of strong prescription opiates sold in its pharmacies with state and local governments throughout the United States

The $3.1 billion proposal follows similar announcements on November 2 from the two largest US drugstore chains, Health CVS and Walgreens Co., company each said they would pay about 5 billion dollars.

The agreements are the product of negotiations with a group of state attorneys general, but they are not final. CVS and Walgreens agreements must first be accepted by the majority of key state and local governments before they are finalized. Walmart’s plan would have to be approved by 43 states. The official process has yet to begin.

National pharmacies join some of the biggest drugmakers and distributors in settling complex lawsuits over their alleged role in the opioid overdose pandemic that has involved more than 500,000 deaths in the United States over the past two decades.

The tally of proposed and completed settlements in recent years is more than 50 billion USDwith much of it going to be used by governments to combat the crisis.

During the 2000s, most fatal opioid overdoses involved prescription drugs like OxyContin and the generic oxycodone. After governments, doctors and companies took steps to make them harder to obtain, drug addicts increasingly turned to heroin, which proved to be more dangerous.

In recent years, the number of opioid deaths has skyrocketed to a record of about 80,000 a year. Most of those deaths involved an illegally manufactured version of the potent lab-made drug fentanylwhich are popping up all over the United States illegal drug supplies.

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