Kroger to pay nearly $50M to Washington to combat fentanyl crisis

Apr 23, 2024, 8:29 AM

kroger opioid...

Exterior of a Kroger store (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Kroger is sending Washington $47.5 million to combat the opioid epidemic in an agreed-upon pending resolution championed by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

In December 2022, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against Kroger for “illegally, recklessly and negligently” filling opioid orders without adequately investigating “red flags” of fraud or overprescribing.

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“My legal team took on some of the largest corporations in the world and held them accountable for their role fueling the opioid epidemic,” Ferguson said. “We’ve won more than $1.2 billion. That’s going to every community in the state to combat the opioid and fentanyl epidemic by improving treatment options, educating youth and supporting first responders.”

Ferguson filed lawsuits against two other pharmacies — Albertsons and Rite Aid — around the same time as his office’s lawsuit against Kroger.

Ferguson claimed Kroger had a “wealth of data” to dispense opioid medication in a safe manner, but failed to do so. For example, the lawsuit claimed the large chain allegedly paid pharmacists on how fast they filled opioid prescriptions, according to a Ferguson press conference in 2022 where he accused Kroger, Albertsons and Rite Aid of skirting federal regulations, flooding the state with opioid drugs and fueling illegal drug rings.

“Communities across Washington state are still dealing with damages caused by these companies,” Ferguson said in a December 2022 press conference. “Our lawsuit demands their conduct be called out for what it is: Unfair and deceptive business practices that create a public nuisance across our state.”

According to the Washington Attorney General’s Office, 112 million daily doses of prescription opioids were given out across the state in 2011 — enough for a 16-day supply of opioids for every man, woman and child in Washington. In 2015, eight Washington counties had more opioid prescriptions than residents.

An average of four Washington residents died every day from opioid overdoses in 2021, with fentanyl deaths doubling from 2020 to 2021 after doubling from 2010 to 2019, according to the DEA.

The resolution, resolving Ferguson’s legal claims against Kroger, will bring the total recoveries in funding to hinder the opioid epidemic to more than $1.29 billion for the Washington Attorney General’s Office. Half of the resources from Kroger will go to the state with the other half going to city and county governments within the state.

Washington residents can download this spreadsheet to see what their local government will receive from the near-$1.3 billion as a result of the Attorney General’s litigation to combat the opioid epidemic.

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The $47.5 million will be paid over the next 11 years. The first payment, equaling $4.3 million, is expected to come within a few months of the resolution being finalized.

Recent spending of the $1.29 billion allocated to combat Washington’s opioid epidemic included $3 million to establish three additional health engagement hub pilot program sites while another $1.5 million was provided to establish high-intensity community-based teams serving people with opioid use disorder. Nearly $4.5 million was provided to the Department of Corrections for health care services.

The Health Care Authority was provided $2 million to fund a tribal opioid prevention campaign.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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