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The U.S. Sues Walmart Over Role in Opioid Crisis

The suit alleges Walmart 'unlawfully dispensed controlled substances from pharmacies it operated across the country.'
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Walmart  (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report shares fell Tuesday after the retail giant was sued by the Justice Department over opioid distribution.

“In a civil complaint filed today, the Department of Justice has alleged that Walmart Inc. unlawfully dispensed controlled substances from pharmacies it operated across the country and unlawfully distributed controlled substances to those pharmacies throughout the height of the prescription opioid crisis,” the Justice Department said in a statement Tuesday.

“The complaint alleges that this unlawful conduct resulted in hundreds of thousands of violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The Justice Department seeks civil penalties, which could total in the billions of dollars, and injunctive relief.”

Walmart traded at $143.92, down 1.4%. The stock has climbed 21% year to date amid heavy demand for its products during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“As one of the largest pharmacy chains and wholesale drug distributors in the country, Walmart had the responsibility and the means to help prevent the diversion of prescription opioids,” Jeffrey Bossert Clark, acting assistant attorney general, said in a statement.

“Instead, for years, it did the opposite - filling thousands of invalid prescriptions at its pharmacies and failing to report suspicious orders of opioids and other drugs placed by those pharmacies. This unlawful conduct contributed to the epidemic of opioid abuse throughout the United States. Today’s filing represents an important step in the effort to hold Walmart accountable for such conduct.”

If Walmart is found liable for violating the CSA, 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 award injunctive relief to prevent Walmart from committing further CSA violations.

Walmart didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news.