By Katabella Roberts
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Tuesday said he is investigating retail giant Walmart over potential violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act relating to its sales of prescription opioids.
In a statement, the Republican said he has issued a Civil Investigative Demand (CID), or type of subpoena, to Walmart that will allow him to obtain information relevant to the investigation.
Under the CID, Walmart will be required to submit documentation relating to orders of opioids from January 2006 to the present day to the Drug Enforcement Administration and all state agencies in Texas, Paxton said.
Paxton’s investigation will focus on sales, promotions, dispensing, and the distribution of prescription opioids from Walmart and whether or not the retailer improperly filled prescriptions for controlled substances.
It will also focus on whether or not Walmart failed to report suspicious orders, as required by law.
“I have fought for Texans who have been tragically impacted by the illegal marketing and sale of opioids, which have caused addiction and the untimely deaths of thousands of people each year,” Paxton said. “I am committed to holding pharmacies accountable if they played a role in this devastating epidemic.”
Walmart said in a statement to Fox News that it would answer Paxton’s questions and was confident about its record on opioid safety, noting that pharmacists at the company have declined to fill hundreds of thousands of questionable opioid prescriptions, which has sometimes led to it being criticized for being overly cautious, by medical groups, doctors, and even by the Texas Medical Board.
‘Never Manufactured, Marketed, or Promoted Opioids’
The company has “never manufactured, marketed, or promoted opioids, and pharmacists aren’t doctors and don’t write opioid prescriptions,” Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said.
“Walmart and our pharmacists are torn between the demands on pharmacists imposed by opioids plaintiffs on one side and health agencies and regulators on the other, and patients are caught in the middle.”
Opioids, including those that are both prescribed and illicit, have claimed the lives of over 564,000 people from 1999 to 2020, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2020 alone, there were 91,799 drug overdoses, of which nearly 75 percent involved an opioid.
More recently, a wave of fentanyl-related overdoses and deaths have hit America, with fatalities from the powerful synthetic opioid more than doubling in 30 states in just two years, according to data from the nonprofit group Families Against Fentanyl.
Walmart was previously sued by the Department of Justice over its alleged role in fueling the opioid crisis across the nation, with the DOJ alleging that the retailer had “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.”
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Walmart said the DOJ’s investigation was “tainted by historical ethics violations” and that the lawsuit “invents a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors, and is riddled with factual inaccuracies and cherry-picked documents taken out of context.”
That lawsuit was temporarily put on hold but is scheduled to resume on July 11.
Walmart, along with pharmacy giants CVS and Walgreens, was also found liable in November for fueling the opioid epidemic in two Ohio counties. A federal judge will decide in the spring how much the three pharmacies must pay in damages to Lake and Trumbull counties.
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