San Francisco reached a $230 million settlement with Walgreens over the corporation’s role in the city’s opioid crisis, The Guardian reports. The settlement is the largest ever awarded to a local government, according to San Francisco’s city attorney. The agreement comes nine months after a federal judge found the company’s failures played a “substantial” role in a crisis that has had “catastrophic” effects on the city. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer also faulted Walgreens for its “15-year failure” to scrutinize opioid prescriptions properly and flag possible misuse of the sometimes highly addictive drugs. Drug-related deaths surged by 41% in San Francisco in the first quarter of this year, with one person dying of an accidental overdose every 10 hours.
In his ruling last August, Breyer found that Walgreens had a profit-driven “fill, fill, fill” culture in dispensing powerful opioids including fentanyl, oxycontin and oxycodone. “This crisis did not come out of nowhere. It was created by the opioid industry, and local jurisdictions like San Francisco have had to shoulder the burden for far too long,” said David Chiu, San Francisco’s city attorney. Walgreens said it “disputes liability” and did not admit fault, but that settling would allow it to focus on patients, customers and communities. “Our thoughts are with those impacted by this tragic crisis,” it added. Breyer found that Walgreens’s San Francisco pharmacies had received more than 1.2 million opioid prescriptions with “red flags'' from 2006 to 2020, yet performed due diligence on less than 5% before dispensing them. The city attorney’s office said money from the settlement would be used to help San Francisco fight its drug crisis.