CVS Health Corp. has agreed in principle to pay about $5 billion to resolve opioid lawsuits, the pharmacy chain announced Wednesday.  

The tentative settlement would resolve lawsuits and claims involving the addictive painkillers going back a decade or more, according to a release from the company

CVS would pay $4.9 billion to states and political subdivisions, like cities and counties, and around $130 million to tribes over 10 years, starting next year.  

The non-monetary terms are yet to be finalized and the company says the payments would not be an admission of liability or wrongdoing. But, if it goes through, the settlement would be the biggest connected to the opioid crisis.  

“We are pleased to resolve these longstanding claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” said CVS Health’s Chief Policy Officer Thomas Moriarty. 

Bloomberg reports that two other pharmacy chains, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Walmart Inc., have also tentatively agreed to pay $4 billion and $3 billion, respectively, to resolve opioid suits. 

A group of court-appointed negotiators involved in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL, or multi-district litigation, called the tentative agreement “an important step in our efforts to hold pharmacy defendants accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic that continues to devastate individual lives, as well as entire cities and states.”  

Pharmacy centers like CVS have recently come under new scrutiny for their role in the opioid crisis.

Opioids are the main driver of drug overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the CDC, and many cases involve prescription opioids, which can be dispensed at pharmacies.

From 1999 to 2020, more than 263,000 people in the U.S. died from overdoses involving prescription opioids. 

A study released earlier this year estimated that 1.2 million people in the U.S. and Canada could die by 2029 if governments don’t take action against industries that facilitate opioid use. 

CVS said in its Wednesday statement that the company has also taken a number of initiatives to combat opioid abuse, ranging from educational programs on prescription drug misuse to new tech to deter opioid robberies.

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