Bay State could receive over $200M in CVS, Walgreens opioid settlements

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CVS and Walgreens have agreed to pay state and local governments a combined total of more than $10 billion to settle lawsuits over the toll of opioids, a deal that could send more than $200 million to Massachusetts.

The Bay State stands to receive $230 million from the settlements, according to Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.

The states involved in negotiations, including Massachusetts, announced the deals Monday, laying out the details of what the two largest pharmacy chains in the U.S. offered last month.

Under the proposals, CVS  agreed to pay $5 billion over 10 years and Walgreens $5.7 billion over 15 years, according to Healey’s office.

The deals are among the largest in a wave of proposed and finalized settlements over opioids in recent years totaling more than $50 billion. Walmart agreed to a settlement last month for $3.1 billion.

Although lawyers involved in the cases are in line for a cut of the payments, about $1.2 billion, most of the money is to be used to fight an overdose epidemic that has only deepened in recent years.

Massachusetts recorded a new high in opioid related deaths in 2021, when 2,234 confirmed overdose deaths occurred, according to state health data. Previous high overdose death tolls were hit in 2020,  when 2,090 were confirmed, and 2016 when 2,110 people were killed in opioid-related overdoses.

The drugs have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. in the past two decades, with most casualties coming in recent years. The drugs responsible for the bulk of the deaths have shifted from prescription painkillers to illicitly produced fentanyl, which is often being mixed into other street drugs.

Under the separate deals, states have until the end of the year to agree to drop claims over opioids against Walgreens and CVS to receive the maximum payouts.

States, including Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Pennsylvania, have indicated they’re accepting the terms of both settlements.

The companies also have agreed to monitor, report and share data about suspicious activity related to opioid prescriptions.

Like other opioid settlements, the agreements call for governments that receive money to use it to fight the drug crisis.

“CVS and Walgreens flooded our cities and towns with bottles upon bottles of pills with callous disregard for the suffering their actions caused,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement Monday. “Our settlement mandates significant changes to their business practices, including court-ordered monitoring to ensure the checks and balances that should have been in place all along will now be aggressively enforced.”

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