(Feb. 16 official editorial of the Washington Examiner) Earlier this month, a federal judge kept alive a horribly misguided complaint by the Department of Justice against Walmart for doing nothing other than its duty in filling prescriptions from doctors in good standing.

The lawsuit involves prescriptions for legal opioid medicines. Yes, as reported just last week, opioid overdoses grew by 29% in 2020, making opioid misuse a scourge that probably requires a national health strategy to counteract. But the Justice Department’s civil suit against Walmart is mere virtue-signaling — indeed, it is counterproductive virtue-signaling at that. The real problem lies not with pharmacists but with doctors who overprescribe, users who abuse, and street traders who profit from an opioid black market.

The Justice Department’s civil suit is quite strange. It says Walmart “failed to detect and report at least hundreds of thousands of suspicious orders” of legal prescription painkillers.

Suspicious? Says who? The prescriptions at issue were written by doctors who are duly registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration and licensed by their states. Pharmacists are governed mostly by state laws. In most states, pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions from duly certified doctors are subject to sanction. No federal law provides a clear rule on when or whether pharmacists should disregard their ordinary duty to fill prescriptions. They provide only vague guidance for how pharmacists are to determine whether “red flags” exist that indicate that doctors have turned their practices into illegal pill mills.

Moreover, Walmart has actually been rather aggressive in trying to detect suspicious prescription activity. The popular store’s pharmacies have refused to fill problematic opioid prescriptions on hundreds of thousands of occasions in recent years. In fact, Walmart locations in 13 states have been subject to precisely the opposite complaints from what the Justice Department claims….

[The full column is here.]


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