Kroger will pay up to $1.2 billion to settle most nationwide opioid claims

The Kroger supermarket chain’s headquarters is shown in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Lisa Baertlein | Reuters

Kroger on Friday said it has agreed to pay $1.2 billion to U.S. states, local governments and Native American tribes to settle the majority of claims that it fueled the opioid epidemic through lax oversight of its pill sales. 

That settlement would allow for “full resolution” of all claims on behalf of those parties, Kroger said in a release ahead of its second-quarter earnings. Still, the company said the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or liability. 

“Kroger will continue to vigorously defend against any other claims and lawsuits relating to opioids that the final agreement does not resolve,” the company said in the release

Shares of Kroger fell more than 1% in premarket trading Friday.

Kroger will pay $1.2 billion to U.S. states and subdivisions and $36 million to Native American tribes over 11 years. The company expects a $1.4 billion charge related to the settlements and associated legal fees during the second quarter.

State and local governments have filed thousands of lawsuits against drug companies and wholesalers accused of contributing to the oversupply of prescription drugs that fueled the opioid epidemic, resulting in a plethora of settlement deals.

Several companies announced nationwide opioid settlements within the last year.

In November, Walgreens agreed to pay $4.95 billion to U.S. states, subdivisions and tribes to settle all opioid claims. The company also settled with West Virginia, which had the highest number of opioid-related overdose deaths nationwide, in January for $83 million

Also in November, CVS agreed to pay $5 billion to states, local governments and tribes to settle all opioid-related lawsuits. The retail pharmacy also settled with West Virginia for $82.5 million last fall.

Walmart in December finalized a $3.1 billion nationwide settlement agreement with all U.S. states and subdivisions to resolve all opioid-related lawsuits. Walmart settled with West Virginia for $65 million a few months earlier.

Rite Aid has not reached any nationwide opioid settlement, but the company agreed to pay $30 million to West Virginia last fall. Rite Aid is reportedly preparing to file for bankruptcy within a few weeks to help restructure its debt and potentially halt ongoing opioid lawsuits.

More than 564,000 people died from overdoses involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids, from 1999 to 2020, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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