A FIRST of its kind settlement has been decided after Kroger agreed to pay $1.2billion to states and local governments to end a lawsuit.
The lawsuit was just part of several suits nationwide brought by the government against prescription pill manufacturers, distributors, and companies.
Kroger’s agreement is tentative and should be completed within 30 days, said litigators for local and state plaintiffs.
This is the first agreement involving one of the smaller, regional supermarket pharmacies that the plaintiff’s attorneys said played a “significant role” in the opioid epidemic.
Other regional pharmacy defendants are still going through.
“This $1.2billion agreement-in-principle is another step forward in holding each company that played a role in the opioid epidemic accountable and ensuring hard-hit communities are provided with much-needed resources,” said Jayne Conroy, Paul T. Farrell, and Joe Rice, the co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in a press release.
The team encouraged eligible states to join them in the settlement agreement, saying it would lead to “providing these life-saving resources where they are needed most.”
States, counties, and cities are deciding where to use the money they received from the settlements.
Kroger did not admit any wrongdoing and said it would “continue to vigorously defend against any other claims” that weren’t covered by the settlement.
The payout erased the retailer’s second-quarter profit, booking a huge $1.4billion one-time charge that also included $177million in attorneys fees.
However, the company hopes to bring the litigation to a conclusion.
“This is an important milestone in the company’s efforts to resolve the pending opioid litigation and support abatement efforts,” said Kroger in a statement.
“Kroger has long served as a leader in combatting opioid abuse and remains committed to patient safety.”
If the states and local governments agree to the payment proposed by Kroger, they will receive the money over 11 years.
The first payment will come in December, said the lawyers in a press release.
Provisional data from the US Centers for Disease and Prevention showed that more than two-thirds of the reported 107,081 drug overdose deaths in the US in 2022 involved synthetic opioids – particularly manufactured fentanyl.
The states are dealing with pill mills, where doctors prescribe large amounts of opioids to addicted people.
Despite a crackdown on the pill mills, people are turning to a new heroin market along with fentanyl, said the US Drug Enforcement Administration.