SCHUYLER COUNTY, N.Y. (WETM) — Schuyler County is set to receive upwards of $362,000 in settlements from three pharmacy chains to settle claims that the companies contributed to the opioid crisis in the county, Schuyler County’s Attorney says.

CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart will pay the county, along with others across the country, as part of a nationwide agreement to resolve all opioid litigation brought by states and local political subdivisions.

Schuyler County is estimated to receive $125,031 from CVS, $158,486 from Walgreens, and $79,038 from Walmart, said Steven Getman, Schuyler County’s Attorney.

Getman said that on March 27, both the financial and management committees from the county voted to recommend the settlement and authorized Getman to execute the necessary legal documents upon approval by the Schuyler County Legislature. This measure will be considered on Monday, April 10.

The money received from the companies will be used to help in the anti-drug effort.

“Potential uses include treating opioid addiction, law enforcement expenditures, funding social services, and similar anti-drug efforts,” Getman said.

Getman says the proposed settlement orders the companies to implement changes to prevent fraudulent prescriptions as well.

Some of the changes the companies will address include the compliance structure, pharmacist judgment, diversion prevention, suspicious order monitoring, and reporting on blocked and potentially problematic prescribers.

The settlements stem from a 2018 lawsuit that the county filed against 30 defendants.

According to Getman, that lawsuit alleged the defendants had long known that opioids were addictive and subject to abuse, particularly when used long-term for non-cancer pain.

The lawsuit states that despite this, the defendants spend hundreds of millions of dollars disseminating scientific materials and advertising that misrepresented the risks of long-term opioid use.

Around 14 counties across New York sued the pharmaceutical companies for fraudulent marketing practices, and in March 2019, the New York Attorney General’s office issued its lawsuit on behalf of the state.

In 2021, Attorney General Letitia James brought legislation to create an opioid settlement fund and in 2022 she announced a tentative deal with CVS, Walgreen, and Walmart that she says will deliver over $13 billion for communities nationwide to combat the opioid crisis.

More money could still come to Schuyler County as the lawsuits the county has against other defendants are still pending, Getman said.

If approved, the agreement would be one of several opioid settlements Schuyler County has been a part of over the past five years.

The county could see a total of nearly $1.2 million to date for opioid prevention and remediation if the most recent settlements are approved.

“One cannot put a price on the lives lost and families torn apart,” Getman said, “but with nearly $1.2 million expected to be delivered to Schuyler County, we can provide our community with financial assistant to continue this battle and hold these companies responsible for their role in the opioid epidemic,” he said.

The three companies involved in the most recent proposed agreement have each issued statements denying liability and supporting settlement

In a statement released by CVS: “The agreement would fully resolve claims dating back a decade or more and is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing….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. We are committed to working with states, municipalities and tribes, and will continue our own important initiatives to help reduce the illegitimate use of prescription opioids.” 

In a statement released by Walgreen: “The settlement frameworks include no admission of wrongdoing or liability by the company. As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation, we remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and well-being of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis. We believe this is in the best interest of the company and our stakeholders at this time, and allows our pharmacists, dedicated healthcare professionals who live and work in the communities they serve, to continue playing a critical role in providing education and resources to help combat opioid misuse and abuse.”

In a statement released by Walmart: “Walmart believes these settlements are in the best interest of all parties and will provide significant aid to communities across the country in the fight against the opioid crisis, with aid reaching state and local governments faster than any other nationwide opioid settlement to date, subject to satisfying all settlement requirements. Walmart strongly disputes the allegations in these matters, and these settlements do not include any admission of liability. Walmart will continue to vigorously defend the company against any lawsuit not resolved through these settlements.”

The Schuyler County Legislature will meet Monday, April 10, at 6:30 p.m. at the Schuyler County Courthouse at 105 Ninth Street in Watkins Glen, with the public being invited and encouraged to attend.