Is Walmart a villain or victim of America’s deadly opioid crisis?

As the opioid crisis ravaged communities across the United States two years ago, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas at the time, Joe Brown, set about fixing blame on Walmart, alleging its pharmacies were filling prescriptions from “pill mill” doctors facilitating drug misuse and abuse by overprescribing narcotics.

The Department of Justice has also had a long-running civil investigation into Walmart’s pharmacies. The Bentonville, Arkansas, retail behemoth is now preemptively suing the Department of Justice, asking a federal district court to untangle the contradictory laws that have left Walmart open to investigation. The “DOJ is threatening to sue Walmart for not going even further in second-guessing doctors,” Walmart said in a press release, while “state health regulators are threatening Walmart and our pharmacists for going too far and interfering in the doctor-patient relationship.”

Walmart has been tightening its policies on filling opioid prescriptions, according to its “opioid stewardship initiative” – not just questioning particular scripts, but refusing to fill any prescription for controlled substances from doctors about whom the company had doubts. In part to appease federal regulators, Walmart applied various restrictions on controlled substances. But soon state authorities accused the company of violating state regulations – even of committing crimes – by blocking prescriptions or even just filling smaller quantities of drugs than doctors had specified. The company also received pushback from medical groups that accused Walmart of trampling on doctors’ prescribing prerogatives.

Walmart’s damned-if-you-fill-the-script, damned-if-you-don’t bind reflects the problems faced by large chain pharmacies, which also include CVS and Walgreens. They are among the chief targets in opioid-related lawsuits that may be some of the most complicated and expensive litigation in American history – the so-called National Prescription Opiate Litigation. The companies didn’t get there on their own: Contradictory regulations, demands, and threats from Washington and the states have combined to create a tangle trapping the pharmacies, leaving them exposed to plaintiffs’ lawyers in a massive “multi-district litigation” playing out in an Ohio court.

The nationwide tobacco litigation of the 1990s was complex enough, involving the states and a handful of cigarette manufacturers. By contrast, plaintiffs in the National Prescription Opiate Litigation – counties, boroughs, parishes, cities, townships, municipalities, and villages – number in the thousands. They are looking for just about everyone in the opioid business – manufacturers, distributors, and retailers – to pay for the opioid misuse that has been so costly to society. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are seeking damages well into the billions.

The court case consolidated in 2017 was supposed to get rolling in November, but has recently been postponed to the spring out of concerns COVID-19 would spread through a crowded courthouse.

The “multi-district litigation” follows efforts by federal prosecutors who have tried to build both criminal and civil cases against pharmacies, including Walmart, for not acting soon enough in blocking all prescriptions written by doctors pharmacists had questions about.

Pharmacies, though, are a curious place to assign blame for the opioid epidemic. They don’t make the drugs: Controlled substances are

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Why The Dentist In Finding Nemo Is Not a Villain

When watching the famous and family friendly film Finding Nemo, you may not have paid much attention to P. Sherman the dentist who provided his office as the fish tank home. This is a mistake, because without him and his office, the movie could have never played out in the way it did, and Nemo would have never found his way home. While traditionally considered a villain, P. Sherman is actually shown as a caring pet owner, loving uncle and an accomplished dentist.

In the earlier part of the film, the fish plot an escape plan for when P. Sherman cleans their filthy tank. When P. Sherman sees the terrible state of the fish tank, he makes sure, before seeing any patients, to address the issue and give the fish a sparkling clean tank. The AquaScum 3000 is the latest in fish tank cleaning technology and provides regular pH and temperature checks. Of course this thwarts any plans the fish had made for escape, but it demonstrates P. Sherman’s dedication to the care of his office pets. If fish had teeth, it wouldn’t be a far stretch to think he’d take excellent care of them too.

Most importantly, P. Sherman (with his tools and spit fountain) provides the only way for Nemo’s eventual escape back to the ocean, through the pipes. In the rising action of the film, Nemo plays dead in order to get flushed down the toilet, but it ends up being the spit fountain that he is flushed down as a method to escape. No other profession would offer Nemo this route of escape, which makes dentistry key in this film.

Not only does his office provide a safe and comfortable environment for the fish, they are also gaining a valuable education in watching him practice. In the start of the film the fish remark on an in-progress root canal and display their knowledge of the tools as they discuss. There’s no doubt that any dentist student would jump at such a marvelous chance to observe a true professional at work and absorb so much information about the practice.

Though it’s tough to see without pausing and zooming in certain screen shots, P. Sherman has been awarded a number of awards and certificates. These include, The Toothless Grin of the Society of Denture Wearers, a diploma from the Pixar School of Dentistry and the Gums Most Likely to Recede Award. It’s clear that he’s no hack and takes his work very seriously.

A loving uncle, reputable dental professional and great pet owner, P. Sherman is definitely not any sort of villain. In an animated world designed for kids, it’s important to display the adult characters with strong moral values and positive attitudes. Finding Nemo does this in spades and might even convince some kids to not be so afraid of the dentist in the future. If this film has taught us one thing, it’s that dentists aren’t so bad.

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