At the height of the opioid epidemic, Walgreens handled nearly one out of every five oxycodone and hydrocodone pills shipped to pharmacies across America.
Walgreens dominated the nation’s retail opioid market from 2006 through 2012, buying about 13 billion pills — 3 billion more than CVS, its closest competitor, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration database of opioid shipments. Over those years, Walgreens more than doubled its purchases of oxycodone.
The company had “runaway growth” of oxycodone sales because it continued to send pills to stores “without limit or review,” Edward Bratton, Walgreens manager of pharmaceutical integrity, wrote to another employee in 2013. The email is among thousands of documents recently disclosed in a federal lawsuit that seeks to hold Walgreens and other businesses responsible for the nation’s opioid crisis.