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Albertsons faces three separate actions related to opioids

Boise-based Albertsons Companies owns more than 1,700 pharmacy counters across the country. According to recent financial disclosures, the company is the subject of three separate actions related to opioid pain medications.

Alaska AG investigation

The Alaska Attorney General subpoenaed the company a year ago. That office told the grocer it “has reason to believe that we engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices…”

Albertsons said the Alaska AG asked for documents from the company about its handling and training around the dispensing, sales and marketing of opioid pain medications.

“We have been cooperating with the Alaska Attorney General in this investigation and do not currently have a basis to believe we have violated Alaska’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Act,” the company wrote. It says the “investigation remains in its early stages.”

[Sales up, profits improve in 4th quarter for Albertsons]

Alaska has taken several actions around opioids. In October, it sued three distributors saying they “disregarded their obligations under Alaska law to report suspicious orders and prevent diversion of prescription drugs.”

The AG has not taken any similar action against Albertsons, which owns 25 Safeway and Carrs locations in the state.

Blackfeet Indian Tribe suit

In January, Albertons was served with a complaint from the Blackfeet Indian Tribe. It contained “unspecified allegations that we contributed to the national opioid situation,” the company said.

The tribe filed the initial complaint in the Northern District of Ohio in August of 2018 according to the company. It is one of “62 cases consolidated under rules governing multidistrict litigation.”

An item from the Cutbank (Montana) Pioneer Press which appears to be a news release said the Blackfeet tribe “filed suit against five of the largest manufacturers of prescription opioids and their related companies and against the country’s three largest wholesale drug distributors.”

The apparent news release claims “the distributors breached their legal duties to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids.”

“As a drug retailer that only dispenses medication as prescribed by licensed physicians, we believe that the claims are factually inaccurate and without merit,” Albertsons said in its filing. It said it filed a motion to dismiss on February 15th.

New Mexico complaint

In its disclosure statement, Albertsons said it received another complaint similar to the Blackfeet Indian suit.

The Associated Press reports the New Mexico Attorney General expanded a 2017 lawsuit. It now includes drug store chains, including CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. Albertsons’ disclosure indicates it is also part of the sweeping legal action.

“These out-of-state companies have harmed New Mexicans,” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in February according to the AP. “They’ve harmed generations of New Mexicans as politicians and others have stood idly by as we just cop-out and blame other causes for addiction.”

Albertsons owns 35 stores in the State of New Mexico.

“The Company is vigorously defending these matters and believes that these cases are without merit. At this early stage in the proceedings, the Company is unable to determine the probability of the outcome of this matter or the range of reasonably possible loss, if any,” Albertsons disclosed.

Narcan added to pharmacy counters

According to Progressive Grocer, Albertsons recently added naloxone to 1,600 stores across the country. The drug can help reverse the effects of an overdose from prescription opioids.

“Our pharmacy teams are on the front lines in combating the opioid epidemic, serving impacted patients and their families every day,” Mark Panzer of Albertsons told Progressive Grocer. “Our ability to bring naloxone to those who may be at risk of an overdose, and training patients and their caregivers on how to effectively administer the drug, may save lives.”

Albertsons and Safeway stores in Idaho are among those stocking Narcan.

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Don Day - BoiseDev Editor & Founder
Don is the founder and publisher of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow. Contact him at don@boisedev.com.

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