Retailers

Walmart Says it Will Appeal Dismissal of Its Lawsuit in Opioid Dispute

Texas judge dismissed Walmart's lawsuit seeking clarity on pharmacists' role amid opioid crisis
Walmart sign
Photograph courtesy of Walmart

Walmart Inc. said it will appeal a Texas judge's ruling dismissing the retailer's lawsuit seeking clarity about pharmacists' obligations under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

In October, Walmart preemptively sued the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) after investigations by Texas prosecutors into whether Walmart pharmacists filled opioid prescriptions improperly. Walmart asserted that the DOJ intended to "seek massive retroactive liability on Walmart under the view that its corporate-level policies violated the CSA." Walmart's lawsuit sought judicial declarations pertaining to, among other things, pharmacies' and pharmacists' responsibilities when it comes to filling or refusing to fill prescriptions as well as their liability under the CSA.

Walmart, in a statement issued at the time, called the threat of a DOJ lawsuit "completely unjustified" and maintained there was "no federal law requiring pharmacists to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship to the degree DOJ is demanding."

The DOJ did sue Walmart in December, alleging that the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer failed to report suspicious orders of prescription opioids and that Walmart pharmacists filled thousands of invalid opioid prescriptions amid the country's growing opioid abuse epidemic. 

On Feb. 4, U.S. District Judge Sean Jordan granted a motion by the DOJ to dismiss Walmart's suit, finding that Walmart lacked standing to sue. 

In response, Walmart said that the company and its pharmacists "are torn between demands from DEA on one side and federal health agencies and state regulators on the other," with patients "caught in the middle." Calling the court's ruling "purely procedural," Walmart noted its intent to appeal and stated: "Our pharmacists and patients deserve better than the current patchwork of inconsistent, conflicting and contradictory demands from federal and state regulators."

The case is Walmart vs. U.S. Department of Justice, et al., civil case No. 4:20-CV-817-SDJ.

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