FILE - CVS Pharmacy

(The Center Square) – West Virginia is receiving more than $147 million in a settlement with Walmart and CVS related to lawsuits launched for the companies’ alleged involvement in the opioid epidemic.

Walmart agreed to pay more than $65 million to the state and CVS will pay about $82.5 million. The CVS deal includes a 2.25% Most Favored Nation protection, which will ensure West Virginia will not be prejudiced in a future national settlement.

“These settlements won’t bring back the lives lost from the opioid epidemic, but these and other settlements will hopefully provide significant help to those affected the most by this crisis in our state,” Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement. “This development also avoided a costly and lengthy trial and at the end of the day, West Virginia will have the highest per capita settlement results in the nation fighting for our people.”

Both companies operate pharmacies that distribute prescription drugs to patients, such as opioid drugs. The state alleged the opioid epidemic in the region was fueled by the two companies failing to maintain effective controls as distributors and dispensers, which helped create an oversupply of opioids.

The lawsuits alleged an oversupply of prescription opioids caused “significant losses through their past and ongoing medical treatment costs, including for minors born addicted to opioids, rehabilitation costs, naloxone costs, medical examiner expenses, self-funded state insurance costs and other forms of losses to address opioid-related afflictions and loss of lives.”

West Virginia settled a lawsuit with Rite Aid for about $30 million based on similar claims recently. The state is continuing its litigation against Walgreens and Kroger for their alleged role. The trial date is set for June 5 of next year, but most opioid-related lawsuits have ended in settlements even though some trials have favored companies. Earlier this year, three distributors went to trial over a West Virginia lawsuit and the court found them to not be liable for the opioid crisis. Some scholars have claimed these companies did not play a role in opioid problems throughout the country, but it has instead been fueled by fentanyl-laced products coming from China.

The National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee co-leads Paul T. Farrell Jr. of Farrell & Fuller Law LLC, Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy, and Joe Rice of Motley Rice LLC released a statement in support of the settlement agreement.

“We commend West Virginia Attorney General Morrisey for his continued efforts and dedication to obtaining justice for his state against those responsible for the opioid epidemic,” the statement read. “[The] settlement is one of many necessary steps towards justice and full accountability against the pharmacies that played a direct role in the opioid epidemic.”

Some of the funds will go toward statewide opioid abuse mitigation plans and some will go to local governments to help them with local opioid abuse issues.

Staff Reporter

Tyler Arnold reports on Virginia and West Virginia for The Center Square. He previously worked for the Cause of Action Institute and has been published in Business Insider, USA TODAY College, National Review Online and the Washington Free Beacon.