Walmart Sues US Government In Opioid Pharmacists Dispute

Walmart said it has filed a lawsuit against the US government asking to clarify the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies in dispensing prescription opiods.

In the lawsuit against the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Walmart (WMT), which also operates pharmacy chains said that certain US officials are now threatening with “completely unjustified” allegations against the retail giant, claiming in hindsight pharmacists should have refused to fill otherwise valid opioid prescriptions.

“We are bringing this lawsuit because there is no federal law requiring pharmacists to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship to the degree DOJ is demanding, and in fact expert federal and state health agencies routinely say it is not allowed and potentially harmful to patients with legitimate medical needs,” Walmart said in a statement. “At the same time that DOJ is threatening to sue Walmart for not going even further in second-guessing doctors, state health regulators are threatening Walmart and our pharmacists for going too far and interfering in the doctor-patient relationship.”

The lawsuit comes after Reuters reported last week that a West Virginia court ruled that Walmart must turn over information about federal and state investigations into its opioid-related practices to hospitals suing the retail giant for allegedly contributing to the opioid epidemic.

“Walmart and our pharmacists are torn between demands from DEA on one side and health agencies and regulators on the other, and patients are caught in the middle,” Walmart said. “We need a court to clarify the roles and legal responsibilities of pharmacists and pharmacies in filling opioid prescriptions.”

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson said this month that it will contribute up to an additional $1 billion for a potential settlement agreement to resolve US opioid lawsuits which would take the total to $5 billion. J&J is among a number of drug companies who have allegedly fuelled the opioid epidemic in many US states by embarking on a deceptive marketing campaign and convincing doctors and the public that their drugs are effective for treating chronic pain and have a low risk of addiction.

Shares in Walmart have been going from strength to strength since hitting a low in March and are now trading 21% higher than at the start of the year. What’s more, the $150.02 average price target implies 4.3% upside potential over the coming year.

Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink last week reiterated a Buy rating on the stock with a $165 price target, saying that the retail giant has done well in responding to the Covid-19 crisis versus peers by offering its own discounts. Wissink believes that Walmart will continue to benefit from the pandemic-led shift in buying habits with consumers shopping more online, while the retail chain also offers many delivery options, including grocery, among others.  

The rest of the Street is in line with Wissink’s bullish outlook. The Strong Buy analyst consensus boasts 22 Buy ratings versus 7 Hold ratings. (See Walmart’s stock analysis on TipRanks).

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