Walgreens Reaches $500 Million Opioid Settlement With New Mexico As Black Deaths Increase

By Sabrina Lynch

  • Walgreens is compensating New Mexico with $500M for its role in the opioid crisis that has costs U.S. economy $92B in lost productivity 
  • Deaths caused by opioids in the Black community have increased by 44%

Walgreens (WBA +1.18%) is digging deep into its pockets to compensate for the toils of opioid addiction spreading across New Mexico to the tune of $500 million. The retail pharmacy chain was found to have played a vital role in distributing the dangerous prescription drug to communities, and not curtailing its misuse or abuse in the opioid crisis that costs the U.S. economy $92 billion in lost productivity. Millions of painkillers were dispensed into New Mexican residents, a state with a 3.2% Black population, and cases where the prescriptions were not needed for medical use were not flagged. 

Why This Matters: The opioid crisis has been historically depicted as a ‘white issue’ affecting rural communities, which is far from the truth. In 2020, there was an 86% increase in opioid deaths among young African-Americans between the ages of 15 and 24. It’s plausible that oversight from companies like Walgreens contributed to this, whether purposeful or not, and has left a trail of lost or ruined lives in its wake. 

Moreover, overdose deaths in Hispanic communities are also climbing, however at half the rate they are in Black communities. Specifically, deaths caused by opiods in the Black community have increased by 44%.

Walgreens’ settlement of half a million with New Mexico now contributes to the $1 billion in opioid litigation brought into the state. This is a drop in the ocean compared to the $50 billion settlements agreed between other drug manufacturers, distribution companies, pharmacies and companies invested in the opioid business, with local and tribal governments.

What’s Next: There’s no clear cut starting point for how Walgreens can begin to atone for their ‘pharmaceutical  sin’. Most of the settlement money won by New Mexico will be  used to fight the crisis and provide treatment that the communities urgently need. The question remains though, how do you continue to put a price on the value of  human life destroyed by pharmaceutical capitalism which keeps the industry accountable. 

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