Opioid crisis: Walmart pays $3.1 billion to settle US lawsuits

Opioid crisis: Walmart pays $3.1 billion to settle US lawsuits

The American group of supermarkets Walmart will pay 3,100 million dollars in the United States to end a lawsuit that accuses it of having played a role in the opioid crisis in the country.

• Read also: Walmart to build a $100 million complex in Vaudreuil-Dorion

As with drugstore chains CVS and Walgreens, which agreed in early November each to pay $5 billion in similar deals, the company is accused of mass-distributing opioid painkillers without being moved by the high number of prescriptions.

“Pharmacies like Walmart have played an undeniable role in perpetuating the destruction wrought by opioids,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Opioid prescriptions quadrupled between 1999 and 2010 in the United States. Although the trend has reversed since 2016, they have created addictions and pushed some patients to turn to drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

More than half a million people have died from opioid overdoses in 20 years.

This health crisis has given rise to an infinity of procedures, which little by little are being resolved.

The Purdue laboratory, considered by many to have caused the crisis for the aggressive promotion of its pain reliever OxyContin, has thus declared bankruptcy while drug manufacturers, distributors and, more recently, pharmacies have agreed to pay several thousand dollars. millions.

Walmart notes that the settlement does not include any admission of liability: Its employees only filled prescriptions written by licensed physicians, prescribing licensed substances, the company argued.

But the supermarket chain believes closing the complaints is “in the best interest of all parties.”

In addition to the money paid to combat the ill effects of opioids, Walmart has pledged to better monitor potentially suspicious prescriptions.

The agreement does not cover lawsuits filed in late 2020 by the Justice Ministry, which accuses the group of pressuring its pharmacists to quickly process prescriptions.

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Announced alongside quarterly results, the deal created a heavy charge on the company’s books, resulting in a net loss of $1.8 billion for the August-October period.

However, its business held up well, and without taking this one-off item into account, the supermarket chain delivered results that exceeded expectations. Its turnover increased notably by 8.7% to reach 152.8 billion dollars.

“When consumer budgets start to falter, Walmart benefits,” summed up Neil Saunders of GlobalData, noting that growth is centered on food shelves.

“With the cost of everyday items remaining stubbornly high in too many categories, more and more customers are choosing us for our pricing and product mix,” company chief Doug McMillon said on a conference call.

In the United States, the group has managed to offer similar prices to last year for the traditional Thanksgiving meal at the end of November.

Buoyed by an influx of customers drawn by low prices into its stores in this period of inflation, all revenue combined, the group raised its forecast for the year.

Walmart now expects revenue to rise 5.5% for its fiscal year, which ends at the end of January, from 4.5% previously.

At the same time, the company expects its operating profit to fall from 6.5% to 7.5%, a smaller drop than previously expected.

Walmart had warned this summer that its margins would be eroded this year by inflation, which pushes customers to spend more on food and gasoline and less on other goods, with generally higher margins.

To deflate inventory, the group canceled orders and offered deep discounts on clothing and other major items. At the end of October, its inventories were up just 13% in a year from +26% at the end of July.

In a sign of its optimism about its business, Walmart also announced a new $20 billion share repurchase program on Tuesday.

The stock jumped 7% mid-session on Wall Street.

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