CVS reaches $5B settlement of opioid lawsuits, becomes first pharmacy to strike nationwide deal


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CVS Health has announced that it has agreed in principle to a $5 billion payout "designed to substantially resolve all opioid lawsuits and claims against the company" in the U.S. 

The Woonsocket, Rhode Island company would pay the funds over 10 years under a deal that, if accepted, would make it the first major pharmacy chain to reach a nationwide settlement of lawsuits over how it handled prescriptions for powerful and addictive prescription opioid painkillers that are linked to an overdose epidemic. 

"We are pleased to resolve these longstanding claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders," Thomas Moriarty, Chief Policy Officer and General Counsel of CVS Health, said in a statement. "We are committed to working with states, municipalities and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegitimate use of prescription opioids." 

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CVS CVS HEALTH CORP. 94.61 -0.10 -0.11%

CVS Health added the agreement "would fully resolve claims dating back a decade or more," but it is "not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing." 


A CVS Pharmacy is shown in Mount Lebanon, Pa. On Wednesday, Nov. 2, CVS Health said it has agreed to pay about $5 billion to state, local and Native American tribal governments to settle lawsuits over the toll of opioids. (AP/Gene J. Puskar / AP Images)

The company also said its initiatives to combat opioid abuse include "educational programs on prescription drug misuse that have reached 1.8 million teens and parents" and the "rollout of more than 4,750 safe medication disposal units in stores and local police departments across the country, which to date have collected more than 4.5 million pounds of unused medication." 

In the lawsuits, governments said pharmacies were filling prescriptions that they should have flagged as inappropriate. 

Oxycodone pills are shown, June 17, 2019 (AP/Keith Srakocic / AP Images)

Under the settlement plan, CVS would pay $4.9 billion to state and local governments and about about $130 million to Native American tribes over the next decade. The exact amount would depend on how many governmental entities accept the terms of the deal. 


Opioids have been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades. Most of the deaths initially involved prescription drugs. As governments, doctors and companies took steps to make them harder to abuse and obtain, people with opioid use disorder increasingly switched to heroin, which proved more deadly. 

A CVS pharmacy is seen in Bloomsburg, Pa.  ( Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images / Getty Images)

In recent years, opioid deaths have soared to record levels around 80,000 a year. Most of those deaths involve illicitly produced version of the powerful lab-made drug fentanyl, which is appearing throughout the U.S. supply of illegal drugs. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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