Former Walmart Pharmacists Say Company Ignored Red Flags As Opioid Sales Boomed

Ashwani Sheoran, 41, says that when he worked as pharmacist at different Walmarts, he spoke up about the handling of opioid prescriptions and was told to stay quiet and was eventually let go. Hannah Yoon for NPR

When Ashwani Sheoran showed up for early morning shifts at pharmacies in rural Michigan wearing his white Walmart smock, he often found customers waiting, desperate for bottles of pain pills.

"I see my patients, 15 to 20, already lined up to get prescriptions filled for morphine sulfate, oxycodone and other straight narcotics," he said.

This was in 2012 when the prescription opioid epidemic was exploding, killing tens of thousands of Americans every year.

Sheoran, now 41, told NPR he kept seeing what the Drug Enforcement Administration considers "red flags." Patients were driving long distances to buy their pills from Walmart. They couldn't explain why they needed such powerful opioid doses.