Recently, in response to the opioid abuse crisis, the U.S. Department of Justice targeted retail giant Wal-Mart and accused the retailer of contributing to the ” opioid crisis” in the United States for profit.
However, Wal-Mart responded that the federal government is looking for “scapegoats” for its regulatory shortcomings and negligence, and it is the government to blame.
On December 22, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart, accusing that the latter tried to increase profits by reducing the staff of its pharmacies and pressured pharmacists to dispense drugs quickly.
This makes it difficult for pharmacists to refuse invalid and suspicious prescriptions, thus contributing to opioid abuse throughout the United States.
Opioids are alkaloids and derivatives extracted from opioids (opium poppy) and have analgesic and sedative effects, but long-term use can lead to drug addiction, severe drug abuse and death.
These drugs are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and require a doctor to prescribe controlled drugs. In American pharmacies, pharmacists are responsible for dispensing medicine to customers and patients according to doctors’ prescriptions.
However, the U.S. Department of Justice believes that Wal-Mart pharmacies have repeatedly ignored the warnings of pharmacists, failed to strictly screen suspicious prescriptions, and dispensed thousands of problematic prescriptions.
Wal-Mart is one of the largest chain of pharmacies and wholesale drug distributors in the United States, operating about 5,000 pharmacies in the United States.
Jeffrey Bossert Clark, acting head of the civil department of the U.S. Department of Justice, said that Wal-Mart has an important responsibility to ensure that prescription opioids and other controlled drugs are legally used, not abused.
The Financial Times said on the 22nd that the U.S. Department of Justice accused Wal-Mart of violating the U.S. Control of Materials Act and planned to fine the company billions of dollars.
Screenshots of American media reports
However, Wal-Mart responded immediately on the same day, retorting the lawsuit of the Department of Justice “fabricating legal theories, illegally forcing pharmacists to intervene between patients and doctors, taking out of context and full of factual errors”.
Wal-Mart said that the accusations made against them by the Ministry of Justice were obviously intended to pass the responsibility of government agencies to them.
There is ample evidence that the Drug Control Agency (DEA) has failed to prevent adverse doctors from prescribing opioids from the beginning. The Department of Justice should not blame Walmart’s pharmacists for not questioning prescriptions from “bad doctors.”
Wal-Mart also countered that their pharmacies have always empowered pharmacists to refuse to dispense drugs according to problematic prescriptions, and pharmacists have rejected hundreds of thousands of such problematic prescriptions.
In fact, Wal-Mart had expected the accusations of the U.S. government.
In October this year, Wal-Mart preemptively sued the U.S. Department of Justice and the Drug Control Bureau, accusing the two government departments of trying to find “scapegoats” for their own regulatory shortcomings and weak law enforcement. The U.S. Drug Control Agency is under the Department of Justice and is responsible for combating drug trafficking and use.
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO) in August this year, about half a million people have died of drug abuse worldwide. Of these, more than 70% of deaths are related to opioids, and more than 30% of deaths are caused by drug overdose.
The opioid flooding is particularly severe in the United States, which has evolved into one of the country’s “worst public health crises”. The tragedy of death in the United States occurs frequently due to drug abuse.
According to WHO, the number of people who died of opioid overdose increased by 120 percent between 2010 and 2018. In addition, according to the data of the U.S. government, there were about 50,000 deaths caused by opioid overdoses in the United States in 2019.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently warned that there is increasing evidence that the crisis of drug abuse in the United States is increasing during the coronavirus epidemic.
In response to the ” opioid crisis”, the U.S. Department of Justice has frequently issued tickets to opioid-related parties in recent years.
However, at present, many companies in the United States have “spending money to eliminate disasters” and reached a settlement with the Department of Justice by paying fines. In October this year, Purdue Pharma, an opioid manufacturer, turned $8.3 billion in to the department.
The Financial Times pointed out that the U.S. Department of Justice initially focused its control on doctors who prescribe and companies that produce and sell opioids. But now the department is starting to focus on opioid distributors and pharmacies.
This year, a federal court fined a North Carolina pharmacy $1 million and ordered the pharmacy to stop selling opioids.