Rite Aid, a major U.S. pharmacy chain, said Sunday, Oct. 15, that it has filed for bankruptcy as part of its effort to restructure its finances. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
AP- Rite Aid has filed for bankruptcy protection and plans to sell part of its business as it attempts to restructure while dealing with losses and opioid-related lawsuits. The company said Rite Aid stores will continue to fill prescriptions, and customers will still be able to visit its locations or shop online while it goes through its voluntary Chapter 11 process. But that process also will allow it to speed up its plan to close underperforming stores.
Going through Chapter 11 will help “significantly reduce the company’s debt” while helping to “resolve litigation claims in an equitable manner,” Rite Aid late Sunday. Rite Aid Corp. said in its federal bankruptcy filing that it runs more than 2,000 stores. Most of its locations are on the East and West Coasts. The company, like its rivals, also faces financial risk from lawsuits over opioid prescriptions. Rite Aid already has reached several settlements, including one announced last year with the state of West Virginia for up to $30 million.
In March, the U.S. Justice Department intervened in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former employees under the False Claims Act. Federal officials said in a statement that the drugstore chain filled “at least hundreds of thousands” of illegal prescriptions for drugs including opioids. Rite Aid called the government’s claims “hyperbolic” in a subsequent motion to dismiss. The company said facts alleged in the case actually showed it exceeded regulatory requirements for diversion control.
Drugstores also have been dealing with several issues that frustrate customers. They’ve handled prescription drug shortages, and they have struggled to fill their stores with enough pharmacists and technicians to run the pharmacies. Rivals CVS and Walgreens both have dealt with walkouts by pharmacy employees concerned about their growing workloads and lack of help. The stores also have had to weather tight prescription reimbursement and waning COVID-19 vaccine and testing business in recent quarters. Plus online competitors like the retail giant Amazon have hurt sales sales of consumer goods found outside the pharmacy areas of their stores. Rite Aid’s larger competitors like CVS and Walgreens, which each run several thousand more locations, have moved more aggressively into health care, opening clinics and adding other sources of revenue.
Rite Aid said Sunday that it had reached an agreement with some key creditors on a financial restructuring plan to cut its debt. The company also said it obtained $3.45 billion in fresh financing from some of its lenders, which will help support the company through the Chapter 11 process. Rite Aid says it does not know yet which stores it will close, but it will transfer workers to other Rite Aid locations where possible.