In a major victory this week, a federal judge ruled in San Francisco’s favor in our landmark opioid trial. Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California found Walgreens liable for substantially contributing to the opioid crisis in San Francisco.
The opioid crisis that has gripped our city did not manifest out of thin air — it was manufactured by the opioid industry. The evidence we presented to the court showed how the vast majority of individuals who overdose or suffer from an opioid-related medical condition — including heroin and fentanyl users – began their opioid use with prescription opioids.
As the largest prescriber of opioids in San Francisco, Walgreens neglected to flag suspicious orders, pressured pharmacists in what the Judge described as a “fill, fill, fill” culture, and did not meet their legal obligations. More than 100 million prescription opioid pills were distributed by San Francisco pharmacies between 2006 and 2020.
As Walgreens flooded our city with opioids, we have seen the heartbreaking consequences on our city streets. As the Judge wrote, “thousands of city residents, from all walks of life, struggle with addiction. Widespread opioid use has strained the city’s hospitals. It has forced streets, parks, and public spaces to close. It has exacerbated crime and homelessness.”
Every year, San Francisco devotes significant resources to combat the opioid epidemic. While no amount of money will bring back the lives our city has lost, we need resources to adequately address and end the suffering on our streets. In this first phase of this trial, Walgreens has been found liable. In the next phase, the court will determine how much money Walgreens must pay to abate the opioid epidemic.
This is a nationally significant verdict. While thousands of cities, towns and counties have sued the opioid industry, this is the first bench trial that has ruled against the industry in national opioid litigation, and the first bench trial to find Walgreens liable. I’m incredibly proud of the work of our deputy city attorneys, city partners, and outside counsel.
Thank you for your support during this fight for justice and accountability. For more information about this ruling and what it means for our city, please click to read more.