Councilor Dolan: Local CVS should pay city for opioid crisis

  • STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 8/6/2019 3:07:24 AM

GREENFIELD — Precinct 5 City Councilor Tim Dolan is asking Federal Street’s CVS to compensate Greenfield for perpetuating the opioid epidemic, after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration released data revealing that the drugstore ordered 5.3 million opioid pills from 2006 to 2012 — the fourth highest of all pharmacies in the state.

Opioid addiction claimed the lives of 102 Franklin County and North Quabbin residents from 2012 to last year, according to data from the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region.

Dolan proposed a resolution Sunday requesting that the pharmacy pay Greenfield $2,664,965 to compensate for the epidemic — 50 centsfor every opioid pill ordered. Half that amount would go to the city, he said, while the other half would go to the Opioid Task Force.

While Task Force Coordinator Debra McLaughlin said in a statement that the coalition “was not made aware of the resolution ahead of time,” she said it appreciates Dolan’s sentiment, adding that “it never hurts to ask a company to be a good corporate citizen to fight the opioid epidemic.”

The resolution is on the agenda for the council’s Community Relations and Education Committee meeting Sept. 25, Dolan said. The earliest the resolution could appear on the City Council’s meeting agenda is in October, he said.

While Dolan said CVS is only one part of the “supply chain” that made millions of opioid pills available to Greenfield residents, he said “every single step” should be held accountable.

“I think, like a lot of people in town, I was horrified when I learned that our local CVS pumped five-and-a-half million opioid pills into our community over the course of six or seven years,” Dolan said. “I don’t believe it is the role of the government to clean up this mess. I don’t think it is the role of taxpayers to fund the generations of work needed to mitigate the effects of the opioid epidemic.”

Dolan said he only included Greenfield’s CVS in the resolution as the pharmacy ordered significantly more opioid pills than its competitors. Next on the list was Walgreens in Greenfield, ordering 1.39 million opioid pills from 2006 to 2012. Then came Anderson Pharmacy in Shelburne Falls, with 1.2 million pills ordered in that period; then Maxi Drug in Turners Falls, with 1 million; and finally, Stop & Shop in Greenfield, with 893,940.

“The fact that they were four times higher than the pharmacy down the street I believe should have been a red flag,” Dolan said.

While Dolan noted that the resolution is symbolic, he hopes its passage will draw attention to the role the pharmacy played in the opioid crisis.

“This is my small effort,” Dolan said. “The council has no mechanism for forcing CVS to pay anything, but that doesn’t mean we can’t send them a bill.”

He added that he hopes “CVS as a corporation will step up and do the responsible thing.”

CVS spokesperson Michael DeAngelis offered a statement Monday, shifting fault to prescribers. He said that about 45 percent of oxycodone and hydrocodone prescriptions filled at the pharmacy were written by prescribers from five local medical practices.

DeAngelis pointed out that one-third of the Federal Street CVS’ patrons live in Greenfield, adding that it is the only 24-hour pharmacy in the region.

The pharmacy, DeAngelis said, is “committed to striking a balance” between ensuring legitimately ill patients have access to pain medication with its responsibility to “evaluate controlled substance prescriptions before filling them.”

Mayor William Martin said he does not see value in passing a resolution as he said it won’t yield any results. He said the city has already taken action to receive reparations from the crisis, having signed onto a lawsuit against a list of pharmaceutical distributors in Dec. 2017. The suit is pending in the U.S. District Court, Martin said.

“What is it that he hopes will be accomplished?” Martin asked of Dolan.

Martin suggested that city councilors would better spend their time focusing on city issues rather than national ones.

“I would be pleased just to have the city councilors do the city business,” Martin said. “I just think it’s important to address the issues in the city, so we can have paychecks and projects accommodating the residents.”

A couple of Dolan’s fellow councilors supported his resolution while admitting that CVS is unlikely to respond. Precinct 7 City Councilor Otis Wheeler said that while Greenfield’s CVS is culpable “in the widespread over-prescription of pain medication,” resolutions generally have little impact.

The sum Dolan chose to request of CVS — $2.66 million — is “arbitrary,” he said. The figure mainly seeks to “underline just how many pills got into our community,” he added. He suggested CVS offer a different amount if necessary.

While Dolan admitted that $2.66 million would scarcely make a dent in addressing Greenfield’s opioid crisis, he said the money would help. He suggested that funding be used to integrate local social services, explaining that defeating addiction requires access to multiple resources like housing and counseling.

“The city of Greenfield is not rich enough to provide these services and, the state seems reluctant to,” Dolan said. “With a $2.5 million infusion, the city can do things like provide housing and certain social services. It could make a difference.”

Reach Grace Bird at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.


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