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Walmart preemptively sues DOJ in opioid case

Walmart preemptively sues DOJ in opioid case
© ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Walmart filed a preemptive lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in what it says is an attempt to thwart an incoming suit for failing to thwart otherwise valid opioid prescriptions. 

The suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas asks the court to declare that the government has no lawful basis for seeking civil damages from the company based on claims that pharmacists filled prescriptions for opioids that should have raised alarm, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the suit.

“In the shadow of their own profound failures, DOJ and DEA now seek to retroactively impose on pharmacists and pharmacies unworkable requirements that are not found in any law and go beyond what pharmacists are trained and licensed to perform,” Walmart writes, according to the Journal. 

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Walmart further claims the DOJ has identified hundreds of doctors as having written problematic prescriptions that the company says should not be filled, the Journal reports. However, most of those doctors still have active DEA registrations. 

“In other words, defendants want to blame Walmart for continuing to fill purportedly bad prescriptions written by doctors that DEA and state regulators enabled to write those prescriptions in the first place and continue to stand by today,” Walmart said.

The company said in a statement that no federal law requires pharmacists to intervene to the extent that the DOJ is asking, and wants the court to clarify the role of pharmacists and pharmacies under the Controlled Substances Act. 

“Certain DOJ officials have long seemed more focused on chasing headlines than fixing the crisis," Walmart said in its statement. “They are now threatening a completely unjustified lawsuit against Walmart claiming in hindsight pharmacists should have refused to fill otherwise valid opioid prescriptions that were written by the very doctors that the federal government still approves to write prescriptions.” 

Walmart has been the target of lawsuits from state and local governments for its alleged role in fueling the opioid crisis. The company has been targeted as a distributor of opioids to its pharmacies. 

The Justice Department previously brought charges against Walmart in 2018 in Texas over its dispensing of opioids. However, the Department decided not to prosecute, ProPublica reported in March.

Walmart was supposed to go to trial in federal court in the cases of Cuyahoga and Summit counties in Ohio, but the trial was delayed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.