Kroger on Friday said it agreed to pay as much as $1.4 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits by states, local governments and Native American tribes claiming the supermarket chain’s pharmacies helped fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The Cincinnati, Ohio-based company will pay $1.2 billion to states, counties and municipalities and an additional $36 million to Native American tribes — along with $177 million to cover attorneys’ fees and expenses.
The budget-friendly grocer — which owns Food 4 Less, Ralphs and Pay-Less Super Markets, and is merging with smaller rival Albertsons — will not admit wrongdoing as part of the deal.
“The settlement would allow for the full resolution of all claims on behalf of participating states, subdivisions and tribes,” the company said.
“Kroger will continue to vigorously defend against any other claims and lawsuits relating to opioids that the final agreement does not resolve.”
The settlement money will be paid in installments over the course of 11 years, while legal costs will be paid in six years, Kroger said.
Kroger has more than 2,200 pharmacies across the US, where it was accused of selling prescription drugs with a lack of oversight, thus contributing to the 564,000-plus people who died from opioid overdoses from 1999 through 2020, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The opioid crisis in the US began in the 1990s when prescription pain killers like OxyContin hit the market.
The so-called second wave of the crisis happened around 2010, when there was a rapid increase in overdose deaths involving heroin, the CDC reported.
The Post has sought comment from Kroger.
Friday’s settlement by Kroger followed a collective $13.8-billion in settlements reached last year with three larger pharmacy chain operators, CVS Health Corp, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart.
Last year, 125-year-old pharma giant Mallinckrodt — which began producing morphine, codeine and other powerful pain-reducing drugs in 1898 — reached a $1.7 billion settlement with state and local governments for its own role in fueling the overdose epidemic.
Around the same time Kroger issued its press release, the company reported a loss of $180 million in its fiscal second quarter.
The supermarket chain posted revenue of $33.85 billion in the period, which did not meet Wall Street forecasts, which topped $34 billion.
In its earnings report, Kroger said that the $1.4 billion may affect the “ability to achieve sales, earnings, incremental FIFO operating profit and adjusted free cash flow goals.”
With Post wires