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Walmart Says It's Fighting the Opioid Crisis, Denies Wrongdoing

The Justice Department accused Walmart of violating prescription-drug rules. The retailer maintains that it's helping fight the opioid crisis.
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Walmart  (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report blasted a federal lawsuit charging the world's largest retailer with stoking the nation's opioid crisis, declaring the government's case was "wrong on the law and riddled with factual inaccuracies."

"Walmart has blocked thousands of questionable doctors from having their opioid prescriptions filled by any of our pharmacists, as part of our good-faith efforts to help address the opioid crisis and to satisfy the Drug Enforcement Administration," the company said in a lengthy statement posted on its website.

The U.S. Department of Justice charged that the Bentonville, Ark., company allowed its network of pharmacies to fill hundreds of thousands of suspect prescriptions and knowingly violated vetting rules.

Walmart maintained that is helping fight the opioid crisis, adding that "our pharmacists have refused to fill hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions they thought could be problematic."

"There are a lot of problems with the lawsuit — as we will explain in court, it is wrong on the law and riddled with factual inaccuracies, mischaracterizations and cherry-picked documents taken out of context," Walmart said. 

"And it is outrageous the Department is trying to shift blame for DEA’s own well-documented failures in policing the very doctors it gave permission to prescribe opioids."

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Walmart added that "state medical and pharmacy boards all over the country have criticized, investigated and threatened Walmart and our pharmacists for going too far in refusing to fill opioid prescriptions."

The government said Walmart, which operates more than 5,000 pharmacies at its stores across the US, "pressured its pharmacists to fill prescriptions as fast as possible, leaving them little time to take the steps needed to determine whether controlled substance prescriptions were valid," according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware. 

"While Walmart compiled 'red-flag' information about problem prescribers, it did not alert its pharmacists to this information, even though they needed that information to determine whether prescriptions were valid," the complaint said.

Walmart's "unlawful conduct contributed to the epidemic of opioid abuse throughout the United States," the government charged.

If Walmart is found liable for violating the Controlled Substances Act, it could face civil penalties of up to $67,627 for each unlawful prescription filled and $15,691 for each suspicious order not reported. 

The court also may issue an injunction to prevent Walmart from committing further CSA violations.

Shares of the retail giant at last check were down 0.4% to $143.70.