In order to settle the hundreds of lawsuits filed by American states, local governments, and Native American tribes alleging Kroger's pharmacies contributed to the country's opioid epidemic, Kroger said it will pay up to $1.4 billion.
To resolve the majority of the opioid lawsuits it encountered, Kroger agreed to pay up to $1.2 billion to American states, counties, and municipalities, as well as $36 million to Native American tribes. Additionally, $177 million will be paid to cover legal costs and fees.
The proposed settlement, which depends on the involvement of 33 qualifying states and the District of Columbia, cost Kroger $1.4 billion. The $1.2 billion would be distributed over a period of 11 years.
The Cincinnati-based grocery chain, which is attempting to combine with its smaller competitor Albertsons, has stated that it would not plead guilty as a condition of the agreement and that it will fight any additional claims that the tentative agreement does not address.
Attorneys general from California, Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, and Virginia spearheaded the discussions that resulted in the agreement.
States, municipal governments, and Native American tribes have filed thousands of lawsuits alleging that drug firms minimized the hazards associated with opioid medications and that distributors and pharmacies disregarded warning signs that the drugs were being trafficked illegally.
According to attorneys for the plaintiffs, the case has resulted in settlements totaling more than $51 billion, with agreements already reached with significant medication manufacturers and the country's leading distributors.
The company Kroger was the target of almost 2,000 similar cases. It had recently agreed to pay $58.5 million to resolve drug claims made by New Mexico, and $62 million to resolve claims made by West Virginia.
The North Carolina Attorney General, who assisted in guiding discussions with Kroger, issued a statement saying that these funds "will help save lives" and "we will make sure these companies can't repeat their mistakes."
The $13.8 billion in settlements with three major drugstore chain operators—CVS Health Corp., Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Walmart—agreed to last year were followed by this one by Kroger.
The main attorneys for the cities and counties involved in the lawsuit referred to Kroger's agreement as the first by one of the smaller, local supermarket pharmacies that had contributed to the drug epidemic in a statement.
According to the attorneys, this $1.2 billion agreement-in-principle is a start in the right direction towards holding each firm that contributed to the opioid crisis responsible and guaranteeing the distribution of critical resources to hard-hit areas.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1999 to 2021, overdoses involving opioids, both prescription, and illegally killed close to 645,000 individuals in the United States.