U.S. sues Walmart for alleged role in fueling opioid crisis

FILE PHOTO: Walmart’s logo is seen outside one of the stores in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

(Reuters) -The U.S. Justice Department sued Walmart Inc on Tuesday, accusing the retailer of fueling the opioid crisis in the country and ignoring warning signs from its pharmacists, according to a court filing.

The retailer’s shares fell about 2% following the news.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. district court in Delaware, alleges Walmart failed to take its gatekeeping duties as a pharmacy seriously.

Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, created a system that turned its 5,000 in-store pharmacies into a supplier of highly addictive painkillers, dating as early as June 2013, the lawsuit said.

The Trump administration’s allegations come months after the retailer filed a lawsuit in October against the federal government, seeking clarity on the roles and legal responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies in filling opioid prescriptions.

The opioid epidemic has claimed the lives of roughly 450,000 people across the United States since 1999 due to overdoses from prescription painkillers and illegal drugs.

Walmart was not immediately available for a comment.

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