Fed’s Effort to Combat Opioid Crisis Hits Walmart, other Pharmacies

The Federal Docket

May 12, 2020

This month saw new signs that the federal government is escalating its war on the opioid epidemic. First, ProPublica reported on new developments in a lawsuit against Walmart and other companies that revealed that Walmart has been hiding that the company was previously under criminal investigation regarding its opioid dispensing practices. The lawyers representing the plaintiffs, which includes states, counties, and municipalities, filed a motion for sanctions based on Walmart’s failure to disclose this investigation, which included efforts by the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Texas to bring criminal charges before the DOJ intervened. The ProPublica includes several other examples of Walmart’s obstruction and evidentiary abuses.

On a smaller scale, the U.S. announced that a pharmacy in Charlottesville entered a settlement with the federal government regarding its violations of the Controlled Substances Act. Meadowbrook Health Services agreed to pay the U.S. $330,000 to settle federal enforcement actions revolving around allegations that the pharmacy unlawfully dispenses controlled substances on at least 33 occasions. The feds also entered into another pharmacy in Mingo County, West Virginia over similar allegations.

The latest news regarding these federal enforcement efforts suggests that we have moved beyond charging only street dealers and doctors with drug distribution offenses and that the feds are now targeting retailer pharmacies that dispense too many opioids. It’s also clear that no pharmacy will be overlooked by its size, from giant retailers like Walmart to mom and pop operations like the one in Charlottesville and Mingo County. Whether the feds will increase their efforts to pursue criminal charges against these operations, however, remains to be seen.

Click here to read the ProPublica article regarding the Walmart litigation.

Click here to read about the pharmacy in Charlottesville and Mingo County.

Tom Church - Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of "The Federal Docket" and is a contributor to Mercer Law Review's Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom's reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.

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