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Walgreens to fork over $230 million to San Francisco in opioid lawsuit settlement; chain accused of not properly vetting prescriptions in a profit-driven 'fill, fill, fill' culture
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Walgreens to fork over $230 million to San Francisco in opioid lawsuit settlement; chain accused of not properly vetting prescriptions in a profit-driven 'fill, fill, fill' culture

The city of San Francisco, California, reached a settlement with pharmacy giant Walgreens for $230 million, after local government claimed that the chain made the city's opioid epidemic worse by failing to properly scrutinize drug prescriptions.

The settlement between the city by the bay and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. stemmed from a nine-month-old decree from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer after litigation in August 2022. The judge said the drugstore could be held liable for having “substantially contributed” to an opioid epidemic that caused “widespread harm” in the city and constituted a public nuisance, according to CNN.

The lawsuit is part of an ongoing feud between the city and Walgreens, however, with the company having pointed to the bay city's staggering petty crime issue, particularly with shoplifting and other theft.

"Due to ongoing organized retail crime, we have made the difficult decision to close five stores across San Francisco," a Walgreens spokesperson said in October 2021. Continuous shoplifting contributed to five Walgreens locations closing up shop that year. In total, Walgreens has shut down at least 10 San Francisco locations since 2019, according to SFGate.

California state law has famously declared theft under $950 a misdemeanor, which means "law enforcement probably won’t bother to investigate, and if they do, prosecutors will let it go," according to Hoover.org.

Judge Breyer blamed Walgreens for a "15-year failure," saying that it failed to properly scrutinize opioid prescriptions, as well as failed to flag possible misuse. Breyer said that Walgreens deployed a “fill, fill, fill” strategy when dispensing opioids.

Walgreens said, however, that it did not admit fault and “disputes liability" for the epidemic. “Our thoughts are with those impacted by this tragic crisis,” the company's statement said.

Walgreens has also provoked the ire of some San Francisco residents with another recent incident. Security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony was working a shift at a Walgreens in downtown San Francisco when he spotted a person he believed was shoplifting. According to reports, the man began hitting Anthony and even "spat" on him.

The reportedly "unarmed" man also allegedly threatened to stab Anthony, though with what is unclear. Anthony subsequently ordered the suspect to leave the store. When the suspect refused, Anthony gestured toward his weapon but did not point it, reports said.

However, when the alleged shoplifter made a move toward Anthony, he reportedly grabbed his gun and shot the suspect; 24-year-old Banko Brown was transported to a nearby hospital "with gunshot wounds," according to the Daily Mail, but died shortly after arriving.

Charges were not filed against Anthony.

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Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados

Andrew Chapados is a writer focusing on sports, culture, entertainment, gaming, and U.S. politics. The podcaster and former radio-broadcaster also served in the Canadian Armed Forces, which he confirms actually does exist.
@andrewsaystv →