• The settlement amount will be paid out over the next 14 years
  • San Francisco held Walgreens liable to pay $8.1 billion to avert the city's opioid crisis
  • Last year, Walgreens reached a $683 million settlement with Florida

Walgreens has agreed to pay $230 million in a settlement to San Francisco after a federal judge held the drugstore chain responsible for contributing to the city's unprecedented opioid crisis.

Announcing the settlement Wednesday, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said the money will be directed to the city's response in countering the ongoing opioid crisis.

"Following our win against Walgreens during the liability phase, this historic agreement ensures Walgreens is held accountable for the crisis they fueled and our city receives appropriate resources to combat the opioid crisis and bring relief to our communities," Chiu said in a news release, according to ABC7.

Chiu also termed Walgreens' settlement to San Francisco the largest amount granted to a city government in opioid litigations. He added the settlement amount will be paid out over the next 14 years, with most coming in the first eight years, San Francisco Chronicles reported.

The suit, which started in 2018, paved the way for the country's first successful bench trial involving opioid manufacturers and pharmacies.

The settlement came almost nine months after US District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco said the corporation could be held liable for substantially contributing to an opioid epidemic that resulted in "widespread harm" in the city. At the time, the judge called out Walgreens for its "15-year failure" to carefully monitor opioid prescriptions and report potential misuse of addictive drugs, which "made the opioid epidemic in San Francisco worse than it otherwise would have been."

Meanwhile, the Deerfield, Illinois-based company issued a statement in which it did not admit fault, but said the settlement will allow it to focus on patients, customers, and communities.

"We never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we distribute them to 'pill mills' and internet pharmacies," the company said. "The settlement allows us to focus on our mission of reimagining healthcare and well-being for our patients, customers, and communities. Our thoughts are with those impacted by this tragic crisis."

It was found that Walgreens' pharmacies in San Francisco had received more than 1.2 million opioid prescriptions with "red flags" between 2006 and 2020. However, it only scrutinized less than 5% of prescriptions before handing them out to customers, SFist reported.

San Francisco previously estimated an $8.1 billion cost to avert the ongoing opioid crisis, noting that Walgreens was legally liable to pay the entire amount.

"San Francisco and the Department of Public Health will use these critical funds to save lives and bring people into treatment," said San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax. Most of the money will be diverted into equipment like "treatment beds, dual diagnosis beds, abstinence-based programming and transitional housing," San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

Previously, the City Attorney's Office reached settlements of $54 million with opioid manufacturers Allergan and Teva, $10 million with pharmaceutical company Endo, around $11 million from CVS and $6 million from Walmart, according to SFGate. San Francisco also settled suits with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and distributors McKesson, Cardinal and AmerisourceBergen for $45 million. With these, San Francisco's opioid lawsuit settlements, including Walgreens, have totaled to about $350 million.

Last year, Walgreens reached a $683 million settlement with Florida following a lawsuit that alleged the pharmacy chain improperly dispensed millions of drugs that fostered the opioid crisis in the state.

More than 600,000 people have died from drug overdoses in the United States from 1999 to 2021, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 2020, around 2,300 people have died in San Francisco due to drug overdoses. "Opioids have wreaked havoc across our nation-leading to immense suffering and untold damage," Chiu said in a statement.

Pigeons are seen resting on signage for Walgreens, owned by the Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., in Manhattan, New York City