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Kentucky sues Kroger for alleged unsafe opioid prescriptions

State’s lawsuit claims Kroger and its pharmacies dispensed roughly 11% of all opioid pills in Kentucky

Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman announced Monday that the state is suing the Kroger Co., alleging that the grocer distributed hundreds of millions of opioid pills to Kentucky residents without the appropriate safeguards.

Coleman and the state’s lawsuit claims that between 2006 and 2019, Kroger and its more than 100 pharmacies in the state dispensed roughly 11% of all opioid pills. The lawsuit notes that during that time period, Kroger bought over 4 billion milligram equivalents of opioids in Kentuckyapproximately 444 million doses.

The company distributed nearly 194 hydrocodone pills to its pharmacies in Kentucky during that same period.

Filed in Bullitt Circuit Court, the lawsuit also claims that Kroger ignored real-time data that showed unusual prescribing patterns and suspicious orders, noting that despite red flags the grocer failed to report a single suspicious prescription between 2007 and 2014. 

“For more than a decade, Kroger flooded Kentucky with an almost unthinkable number of opioid pills that directly led to addiction, pain, and death,” said Coleman in a press release. “Kroger, which families have trusted for so long, knowingly made these dangerous and highly addictive substances all too accessible. Worst of all, Kroger never created a formal system, a training, or even a set of guidelines to report suspicious activity or abuse. The scourge of addiction that has plowed through graduating classes, work forces, and entire families is the devastating result.”

Coleman said in the announcement that Kentucky has been the hardest hit state by the opioid epidemic and that a “wave of addiction has tragically robbed thousands of Kentuckians of their potential.”

“Kentucky has long ranked among the highest overdose death rates in the country,” the AG’s office said. “In one year alone, over 2,100 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses and poisonings.”

It's not the first time the grocer has been sued over the opioid epidemic. In May 2023, Kroger agreed to settle a lawsuit with the state of West Virginia for $68 million over a similar opioid lawsuit, which also involved Walgreens, which paid $83 million, Walmart ($65 million), CVS ($82.5 million), and Rite Aid ($30 million). 

Kroger could not immediately be reached for comment on the Kentucky lawsuit, but the company said in May that the opioid lawsuit in West Virginia was "without merit."

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