Texas AG opens investigation of Walmart’s opioid sales

U.S.

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(NewsNation) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched an investigation Tuesday to determine whether retail giant Walmart improperly filled drug prescriptions and failed to report suspicious orders when selling opioids.

But there’s a chance you haven’t heard about this investigation. That’s because 67% percent of news outlets that reported on this story lean right, according to NewsNation’s partner Ground News, which monitors coverage based on media bias. Only a few “center” outlets and no left-leaning media outlets have reported on the Texas AG’s announcement, according to Ground News’ Blindspot report.

Paxton’s office issued a civil investigative demand, or CID, to Walmart for potential violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act relating to the promotion, sale, dispensing and distribution of prescription opioids.

“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 in a news release. “I am committed to holding pharmacies accountable if they played a role in this devastating epidemic.”    

At issue is whether Walmart submitted the necessary documents related to its opioid orders to the Drug Enforcement Agency and state agencies in Texas, Paxton said.

Walmart said it looks forward to answering the Texas AG’s questions, pointing out that it has never manufactured, marketed or promoted opioids, in a statement to NewsNation, noting that Walmart’s pharmacists don’t write opioid prescriptions.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove told NewsNation the company’s pharmacists have refused to fill hundreds of thousands of opioid prescriptions they thought could be problematic.

Those refusals have drawn criticism from many in the health care field, including the Texas Medical Board, who say the company is going too far in refusing to fill prescriptions and that it’s interfering with the patient-doctor relationship, according to Hargrove.

“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,” Hargrove said.

Paxton is just the latest prosecutor to investigate Walmart for its handling of opioid prescriptions.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Walmart for its prescription drug practices, accusing the company of accelerating the opioid crisis by “filling thousands of invalid prescriptions” and “failing to report suspicious orders of opioids.”

Walmart called the federal government’s lawsuit “misguided” and “misleading,” for reasons similar to those outlined above.

That lawsuit is ongoing.

More than 107,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States last year, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, about 75% involved opioids.

As recently as 2015, the CDC recorded less than 50,000 overdose deaths.

Last year’s record tally means more Americans died from drug overdoses than died from firearms and motor vehicle crashes combined.

In October, Paxton’s office announced a $290 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson to resolve opioid-related claims.

In total, the Texas AG’s office says it has secured more than $1.8 billion from makers and distributors of prescription opioids.

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