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One of the nation’s largest grocery stores has agreed to pay more than a billion dollars in a lawsuit for its part in the opioid crisis.

In a deal announced Friday, the Kroger Co. will pay up to $1.2 billion for state and local governments where it operates, as well as $36 million to Native American tribes and about $177 million to cover lawyers’ fees. The payments will be made over 11 years, with the first payment to be made in December 2023, and will go toward funding efforts to mitigate the effects of the crisis, including treatment centers and harm reduction.

More than 103,000 Americans died in opioid-related incidents in 2022, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to CDC data, that’s up more than 200% since 2000. As overdoses soar throughout the country, driven by the opioid crisis and the proliferation of synthetic opioid fentanyl, Native American communities are among the hardest hit.  

While Americans of all races and ethnicities have been affected, the rise of opioid deaths has disproportionately affected Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. In 2020, Native Americans’ opioid mortality increased 39% over the prior year — the second-highest rate of increase behind African Americans, according to the CDC.

Since 2014, state, local and tribal governments have filed lawsuits to hold prescription drug manufacturers, wholesalers, consultants and pharmacies accountable for their role in the opioid crisis. To date, opioid settlements have reached more than $50 billion. 

The Kroger settlement adds to the $1 billion that will be paid out to tribes from various opioid settlements. 

Later this year, The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether one of the larger settlements, involving OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, is legal. 

 

 

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