An Ohio jury on Tuesday ruled that pharmacies owned by Walmart, Walgreens and CVS are responsible for the opioid crisis in two counties in the US state.
The three companies acted illegally by filling out significant opioid prescriptions in Lake and Trumbell counties, creating an “oversupply” of the drugs and a “public nuisance,” a jury in a federal court in Cleveland found.
The case marks the first case in which distributors of the addictive painkillers – instead of manufacturers – have been found responsible for the health crisis that has claimed more than 500,000 lives in the United States over the past two decades.
A federal judge will assess sanctions in the case against the companies. All three firms issued statements signaling plans to appeal.
The decision may give rise to complaints from additional parties to the crisis, which have already spawned significant lawsuits and several major settlements.
Pharmacy chains Rite Aid and Giant Eagle had previously agreed settlement with Lake and Trumbell counties.
However, lawsuits against opioid manufacturers have suffered setbacks recently in California and Oklahoma, where the latter state Supreme Court recently overturned a $ 465 million verdict against Johnson & Johnson after concluding that a lower court should not have invoked the law on public nuisances.
But Tuesday’s decision showed that similar allegations against the pharmacy chains resonated in juries.
“We strongly disagree with the decision,” a CVS spokesman said.
“The simple facts are that opioid prescriptions are written by doctors, not pharmacists; opioid medicines are manufactured and marketed by manufacturers, not pharmacists; and our healthcare system depends on pharmacists filling out legitimate prescriptions that doctors deem necessary for their patients. “
Lake County praised the ruling, saying that between 2012 and 2016, about 265 pills were distributed to every resident in the area.
“Today’s announcement is great news for our families and communities,” said County Commissioner Ron Young.
“Most of us know someone who has been affected by opioids, and future resources will allow the county and our partners to provide increased resources to get people’s lives back on track.”
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© 2021 AFP
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