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Michigan reaches deal in Walgreens opioid lawsuit

Eric Norris

Michigan has reached a $338 million deal with the Walgreens pharmacy chain over the company's alleged part in the opioid epidemic.

That would be split between a nationwide settlement negotiated last year and a separate deal reached with the pharmacy chain last month. As part of the agreement, Michigan will sign on to the nationwide settlement.

The first settlement result in the company paying Michigan $200 million over the course of 15 years. The second would add another $138 million to that over an 18-year span.

“The opioid epidemic was born, in part, out of a concert of actions by many large corporations who reaped incredible profits as a result. It’s rewarding to hold them accountable and secure much needed funding for the continued suffering of those with opioid use disorder,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a video announcement for the settlement released Monday.

The state previously settled other opioid-related lawsuits against companies including Walmart, CVS Pharmacy, and Johnson & Johnson.

Walgreens declined a request for comment.

Neither agreement includes an admission of guilt or wrongdoing on behalf of Walgreens.

But Nessel said they do require Walgreens to fight addiction by making compliance changes, launching prevention measures, and watching out for suspicious orders.

"While there is no amount of money that can bring back the thousands of people who have died from opioid use disorder, or ease the pain of the families impacted by them, this is an important victory in a hard-fought battle that will help save Michigan lives,” Nessel said.

The Michigan specific agreement lists the first payment to Michigan as June 1, 2023.

Meanwhile, Nessel said signing on to the national settlement gives local governments a chance to receive direct payments from Walgreens.

News of the Walgreens settlement came as another company implicated in the opioid epidemic seeks torenege on its own multi-state deal. The generic drug company Mallinckrodt may file for bankruptcy before making its next payment to several states.

Walgreens’ parent company, Walgreens Boots Alliance, brought in $132.7 billion in revenue last fiscal year.

If it does go under, a court determines the payment to be voidable, and the payments are either not delivered or returned, certain clauses in the agreement could be triggered.

In that case, the Walgreens-Michigan agreement says, “the releases given pursuant to this Settlement should be null and void."

"Walgreens and any Releasee reserve any and all rights and defenses with respect to any Claims or cause of action asserted by Plaintiffs in the event of any insolvency proceeding, receivership, or bankruptcy proceeding.”

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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