ARIZONA NEWS

Kroger agrees to $1.4B settlement in opioid lawsuit that includes Arizona

Sep 12, 2023, 11:45 AM | Updated: 12:13 pm

PHOENIX — Kroger Co. has agreed to pay nearly $1.4 billion to settle a multistate lawsuit that includes Arizona over the grocery giant’s role in the nation’s opioid crisis.

Under the deal announced Friday, Kroger would pay up to $1.2 billion for state and local governments where it operates, $36 million to Native American tribes and about $177 million to cover lawyers’ fees and costs.

It’s not yet known how much Arizona, one of 33 states eligible for payments, will receive.

“This agreement represents our ongoing commitment to holding the companies that created or worsened Arizona’s opioid epidemic accountable,” Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said in a press release Tuesday.

“These settlements will help save lives and ensure these companies do not allow anything like this to happen again.”

What is included in Kroger’s opioid settlement?

The payments would be made over 11 years. The deal is contingent upon Kroger changing business practices regarding prescription painkillers.

Kroger, which previously announced settlements with New Mexico and West Virginia, said it intends to finalize the new deal in time to start payments in December.

The company would not admit wrongdoing or liability as part of the deal, which is called in a statement a milestone in efforts to resolve opioid lawsuits. “Kroger has long served as a leader in combatting opioid abuse and remains committed to patient safety,” the company said.

Kroger operates a variety of grocery store brands across the nation, including Arizona’s 120-plus Fry’s and Smith’s locations. The company is the subject of an ongoing Arizona antitrust investigation over a proposed merger with Albertsons, which includes Safeway.

How is opioid crisis settlement money used?

Over the past eight years, prescription drug manufacturers, wholesalers, consultants and pharmacies have proposed or finalized opioid settlements totaling more than $50 billion, including at least 12 others worth more than $1 billion.

Most of the settlement money is to be used to address an overdose epidemic linked to more than 80,000 deaths a year in the U.S. in recent years, with most of the latest deaths connected to illicit synthetic drugs such as fentanyl rather than prescription painkillers.

Still, Jayne Conroy, a lead lawyer for the governments suing the companies, told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that it makes sense for players in the prescription drug industry to have a major role in funding solutions to the crisis.

“It really isn’t a different problem,” she said. “The problem is the massive amount of addiction. That addiction stems from the massive amount of prescription drugs.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Kroger agrees to $1.4B settlement in opioid lawsuit that includes Arizona