FRANKFORT, Ky. — Attorney General Russell Coleman announced today filing a lawsuit against the Kroger Co. alleging it bears some responsibility for the drug crisis in Kentucky that had produced tens of thousands of overdose deaths. Between 2006-2019, the filing alleges, Kroger and its more than 100 Commonwealth pharmacies dispensed more than 11% of all opioid pills in the state, hundreds of millions of doses that came into communities without adequate 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,” said Attorney General Coleman. “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, but despite growing warning signs did not report a single suspicious prescription in the Commonwealth between 2007-2014.
No state was harder hit by the opioid epidemic than Kentucky, and the consequences have caused suffering and grief for many thousands of families across the Commonwealth, the lawsuit filing states, with addiction robbing thousands of Kentuckians and their families 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.
Fighting the drug epidemic is a publicly declared priority for Attorney General Coleman. Earlier this month, General Coleman announced a nearly $7 million settlement with Publicis Health for the marketing agency’s role in the opioid crisis.