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02/05/2021

Walmart to appeal dismissal of lawsuit against DOJ over opioids

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Walmart Inc. isn’t giving up.

The retail giant said it would appeal the decision of a Texas federal judge to dismiss a Walmart lawsuit that sought to preemptively block the U.S. government from blaming the company for its alleged role in fueling the nation’s opioid crisis.

U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan said the government had not waived its sovereign immunity from Walmart’s “sweeping” challenge to the Department of Justice’s and Drug Enforcement Administration’s enforcement of laws governing opioid prescriptions by pharmacies and pharmacists.

In a statement, Walmart said it will appeal the court’s ruling “to seek clarity on the roles and legal responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies in filling opioid prescriptions written by DEA approved doctors.”  The retailer also said that pharmacists and patients “deserve better than the current patchwork of inconsistent, conflicting and contradictory demands from federal and state regulators.”

Walmart sued the U.S. Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration in October in what was seen as a pre-emptive move against an impending opioid-related civil lawsuit against the retail giant from the Justice Department. In December, the DOJ filed a lawsuit Walmart Inc. alleging violations of the Controlled Substances Act. The civil complaint alleged that Walmart unlawfully dispensed controlled substances from its pharmacies and unlawfully distributed controlled substances to those pharmacies throughout the height of the prescription opioid crisis. 

Walmart’s full statement on the news that its lawsuit has been dismissed is below:

We brought this lawsuit because Walmart and our pharmacists are torn between demands from DEA on one side and federal health agencies and state regulators on the other, and patients are caught in the middle. The court’s decision is purely procedural, based on when the federal government can be sued, and does not resolve the public health concerns raised in our case. We will appeal the court’s ruling to seek clarity on the roles and legal responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies in filling opioid prescriptions written by DEA approved doctors. Our pharmacists and patients deserve better than the current patchwork of inconsistent, conflicting and contradictory demands from federal and state regulators