Coleman files suit against Kroger for distributing ‘unthinkable number of opioid pills’

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, February 13, 2024

By Tom Latek

Kentucky Today

The Kroger Company is the latest in the crosshairs of Attorney General Russell Coleman, who announced Monday a lawsuit against the company for its role in the drug crisis in Kentucky.

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Between 2006-2019, Kroger and its more than 100 pharmacies in the commonwealth were responsible for more than 11 percent of opioid pills dispensed in Kentucky, totaling hundreds of millions of doses flooding into communities without any reason safeguards.

The lawsuit, filed in Bullitt Circuit Court, alleges Kroger:

  • Bought over four billion morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) of opioids for Kentucky between 2006-2019. That’s roughly equivalent to 444 million opioid doses;
  • Distributed almost 194 million hydrocodone pills to its Kentucky pharmacies between 2006-2019; and
  • Failed to implement any effective monitoring program to stop suspicious opioid orders.

“For more than a decade, Kroger flooded Kentucky with an almost unthinkable number of opioid pills that directly led to addiction, pain and death,” Coleman said. “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.”

Acting as a distributor and dispenser, Kroger had access to ample real-time data revealing unusual prescribing patterns and the ability to track suspicious orders. Despite clear red flags, Coleman said Kroger did not report a single suspicious prescription in the commonwealth between 2007 and 2014.

The opioid epidemic harder hit no state than Kentucky, and the consequences have caused suffering and grief for many families across the commonwealth. The 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. In one year alone, over 2,100 Kentuckians died from drug overdoses and poisonings, according to the AG office.

Earlier this month, Coleman announced a nearly $7 million settlement with Publicis Health for the marketing agency’s role in the opioid crisis.