© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People are seen shopping in a Walgreens, owned by the Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., November 26, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo
(Reuters) – Drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:) Inc reported a net quarterly loss on Thursday as it took a $6.5 billion opioid litigation charge, sending its shares down nearly 2% in premarket trade.
Walgreens and rivals CVS Health Corp (NYSE:) and Walmart (NYSE:) Inc in November last year agreed to pay about $13.8 billion to resolve thousands of U.S. state and local lawsuits accusing the pharmacy chains of mishandling opioid pain drugs.
Walgreens, which had been relying on gains from administering COVID-19 vaccines to tide over losses from low prescription volumes due to the pandemic, has seen demand for the shots fall in recent quarters.
The company in October said it expected prescription volumes to recover in 2023 but warned that “lower COVID activity would continue to be a sizeable headwind”.
It administered about 8 million vaccines in the first quarter, which saw pharmacy sales drop about 4% even as demand for cough and cold drugs has been high amid one of the worst U.S. flu seasons in a decade.
Walgreens reaffirmed its 2023 adjusted profit forecast of $4.45 per share to $4.65 per share.
Net loss attributable to Walgreens was $3.72 billion, or $4.31 per share, for the quarter ended Nov. 30, compared with a profit of $3.58 billion, or $4.13 per share, a year earlier including a one-time gain of $2.5 billion.
Excluding items, the company earned $1.16 per share in the first quarter, above Refinitiv IBES estimates of $1.14 a share.