Health Care — Walgreens, CVS to pay billions to settle opioid suits


On Tuesday, D.C. was snubbed for Taylor Swift’s U.S. stadium tour. On Wednesday, the embattled owner of the Washington Commanders NFL team indicated he was exploring potentially selling the team. Do you believe in coincidences? 

Today in health, major pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens have agreed to pay billions to settle opioid lawsuits 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi.

CVS, Walgreens to settle opioid lawsuits for $10B

CVS and Walgreens have agreed in principle to pay a combined $10 billion to resolve opioid lawsuits, the pharmacy chains announced Wednesday.   

CVS would pay $4.9 billion to states and political subdivisions, like cities and counties, and around $130 million to tribes over 10 years, starting next year, according to a release from the company. 

The tentative settlement from CVS would resolve lawsuits and claims involving the addictive painkillers going back a decade or more, though the company says the non-monetary terms are yet to be finalized. 

Walgreens also announced Wednesday that it agreed in principle to pay approximately $4.95 billion to states, subdivisions and tribes and to settle all opioid claims against it, according to a release. The funds would be paid over a 15-year period. 

  • “We are pleased to resolve these longstanding claims and putting them behind us is in the best interest of all parties, as well as our customers, colleagues and shareholders,” said CVS Health’s Chief Policy Officer Thomas Moriarty. 
  • “As one of the largest pharmacy chains in the nation, we remain committed to being a part of the solution, and this settlement framework will allow us to keep our focus on the health and wellbeing of our customers and patients, while making positive contributions to address the opioid crisis,” Walgreens said in a statement. 

Both companies underscored that the payments are not an admission of liability or wrongdoing. But, if the agreements go through, the settlements could be some of the biggest connected to the opioid crisis.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against the companies, alleging that they downplayed the risks involved in opioid painkillers and failing to detect false prescriptions, thereby worsening the opioid epidemic. 

Read more here. 

HHS renews public health emergency for monkeypox

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Wednesday renewed the national public health emergency for the monkeypox outbreak, with officials stating that the virus is still very present in the U.S. even as cases continue to drop. 

Still not over: Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra cited the “continued consequences of an outbreak of monkeypox cases across multiple states” as well as a “consultation with public health officials” for his decision to renew the public health emergency. 

LGBTQ public health experts who spoke with The Hill shortly before Becerra’s decision was announced voiced their support for a renewal of the public health emergency. 

  • “One of the biggest things that we are continuing to hear about is really the disproportionate access to vaccine distribution, which especially impacts our Black, Latinx and people living with HIV communities,” Vanessa Castro, associate director of HIV and health equity for the Human Rights Campaign, said. 
  • An HHS spokesperson told The Hill that the decision to renew was prompted by the need to maintain the flow of data from states and jurisdictions as well as to allow vaccine effectiveness studies to take place. 

The public health emergency for monkeypox was first signed on Aug. 4. Public health emergencies from HHS end after 90 days unless they are renewed. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September expressed “moderate confidence” that monkeypox cases would plateau or continue to decline going forward, though the agency said it was unlikely that monkeypox would be entirely eliminated in the U.S. 

Read more here. 


Residents of the most racially segregated communities tend to breathe in higher concentrations of toxic-metal air pollution compared with residents in more integrated areas. 

That’s according to new research from Colorado State University that assessed air levels of toxic-metals like lead, cadmium and nickel in different communities throughout the country. Levels were recorded between 2010 and 2019. 

“While concentrations of total fine particulate matter are two times higher in racially segregated communities, concentrations of metals from anthropogenic sources are nearly ten times higher,” authors wrote, adding these pollutants are toxic and can cause cancer.  

  • Results showed industrial regions in the Midwest and shipping ports in coastal cities tended to have higher concentrations of human-emitted metal pollutants like lead. These areas also had high degrees of racial segregation. 
  • These health disparities are largely due to systemic racism, including historic redlining. In the 1930s, laws permitted discriminatory loan distribution to residents based on their neighborhood’s desirablilty. This practice was outlawed in 1968 but continues to perpetuate present-day disparities, as it forced populations of color to live closer to sources of pollution.  

Read more here. 


The Biden administration on Wednesday announced $13 billion in funds to provide winter heating assistance for low-income Americans, including $4.5 billion through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). 

In addition to the LIHEAP funding, provided through the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House announced $9 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funds for energy efficiency upgrades to low-income households. 

“As energy prices remain high, this Administration is working to cut costs for working families and businesses through historic investments for consumer rebates for more efficient home improvements and energy-efficient appliances nationwide,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. 

What’s being paid for: The funds include enough to install 500,000 heat pumps and provide upgrades to 500,000 homes, according to a White House call with reporters Tuesday evening.  

The White House said this would include separate rebate programs for whole-home upgrades and appliances. White House officials said the initiatives are part of a broader goal to deploy at least 12 million heat pumps by the end of the decade. 

Read more here. 

Panel finds pulse oximeters less accurate on darker skin

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel on Tuesday said it was clear that pulse oximeter devices do not provide accurate readings for people with “darker skin pigmentations.” 

In an all-day meeting, the panel reviewed published literature, Medical Device Reporting (MDR) data and clinical evidence from studies regarding the accuracy of blood oxygen readings from pulse oximeters in people with darker skin pigmentation. 

Concerns over accuracy have been longstanding, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the issue into the mainstream  

The panel discussed the concerns about the devices and made recommendations for health care providers, labeling for patients and study design and analyses.  

  • Inaccurate readings pose a clinical risk in hospitals; for instance a patient may not get moved into intensive care units if they need it.  
  • But the panel was not unanimous in recommendations on how to limit the inaccuracies going forward.   
  • The panel recommended more studies to understand the issue and that device makers include skin pigmentation as a potential factor affecting accuracy in labeling. 

Pulse oximeters, which are meant to detect low blood oxygen levels work by shining a light source through a fingertip and analyzing the light that passes through.  

Read more here. 


  • Hospital investigated for allegedly denying an emergency abortion after patient’s water broke (Kaiser Health News) 
  • CDC wants to change ‘antiquated’ rules that hamper agency’s ability to fight Covid, polio and other diseases (CNN) 
  • A surge of overseas abortion pills blunted the effects of state abortion bans (The New York Times) 


  • Nebraska has been an unlikely safe haven for abortion rights—that could all change in the midterms (Vanity Fair) 
  • Missouri Senate race shows just how hard it is to campaign on abortion in the heartland (Stat) 
  • New York drug overdose deaths spiked by 68% during COVID pandemic (ABC News) 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.



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