A federal jury in Ohio found on Tuesday that pharmaceutical giants Walgreens, CVS and Walmart contributed to that state’s opioid crisis, a ruling that could serve as a groundbreaking for thousands of similar cases pending from coast to coast. The decision is the first verdict by a jury holding a pharmacy retailer responsible for its role in the devastating attack. Epidemic of opioid overdose that has plagued the United States for decades.
In the lawsuit, Lake and Trumbell counties in northeastern Ohio assert that drugstore retailers have recklessly distributed more than 100 million opioid pain pills in the counties, leading to addiction, death and straining public services. Between 2012 and 2016, more than 80 million prescriptions for pain relievers were dispensed in Trumbull County alone, or about 400 pills per resident. During the same period, nearly 61 million opioid pain relievers were dispensed in Lake County.
“For decades, pharmacy chains have watched as pills flow out of their doors causing harm and have failed to take action required by law,” a panel of attorneys representing local governments in federal opioid lawsuits. She said in the current situation. “Instead, these companies responded by opening more sites, flooding communities with pills, and facilitating the flow of opioids into an illegal secondary market.”
Provinces say pharmacies have created a public nuisance
Plaintiffs’ attorneys argued that the pharmacies’ actions were a public nuisance that cost counties nearly $1 billion each to treat. Mark Lanier, a lawyer representing the counties, said pharmacies failed to hire or train enough staff and implement systems to prevent suspicious orders from being fulfilled.
“The law requires pharmacies to be careful in handling medications,” Lanier said. “This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted.”
“The jury rang a bell that should be heard in all pharmacies in America,” he added.
The lawsuit also originally named drugstore retailers Rite-Aid and Giant Eagle as plaintiffs in the case. Rite-Aid settled in August and agreed to pay Trumbull County $1.5 million in damages, while the settlement amount with Lake County has not been released. Giant Eagle agreed to the settlement late last month, though the terms of that agreement were not disclosed.
The case, decided by a 12-person jury after a six-week trial, was returned in one of nearly 3,000 federal opioid lawsuits overseen by U.S. District Judge Dan Poolster in Cleveland. Adam Zimmerman, who studies class litigation at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the ruling could prompt other drug sellers to settle their pending cases.
“It’s the first opioid trial against these major household names,” Zimmerman said Tell The The New York Times. “They were the least willing group of defendants to settle, so this ruling is at least a small sign for them that these issues will not necessarily go well to juries.”
Pharmacies chains will appeal the ruling
All three retailers have indicated they will appeal the jury’s ruling. Walmart She said In a statement that plaintiffs’ lawyers sued “looking for deep pockets while ignoring the real causes of the opioid crisis—such as pill mill doctors, illegal drugs, and regulators who sleep on switches—and erroneously claiming pharmacists should guess at doctors in a way never intended by law, many say of federal and state health regulators interfering in the doctor-patient relationship.”
Walgreens spokesperson Fraser Ingerman called the case an unsustainable effort “to resolve the opioid crisis with an unprecedented expansion of the Public Nuisance Act,” adding that the company “never manufactured or marketed opioids nor distributed them to ‘pill factories’ and internet pharmacies that ignited this crisis.”
“As the plaintiffs’ experts testified, many factors contributed to the opioid abuse case, and resolving this issue will require the participation of all stakeholders in our healthcare system and all members of our community,” CVS spokesman Mike DeAngeles said in a statement afterwards. The verdict was announced.
And retail pharmacies are not alone in criticizing the ruling. Dr. Ryan Marino, MD, associate professor in the departments of emergency medicine and psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, says the focus on blaming the drug industry, prescriptions, and pharmacies ignores the role bad policies have played in opioids. calamity.
“If retail pharmacies are ever held accountable, I would also ask that policy makers be held accountable for their role in driving people to expected death and failing to act to prevent disordered drug use or addiction by not providing access to safety in addition to basic things like housing, education, employment and income , which are well known to prevent addiction in the first place,” Marino wrote in an email to High Times. “The same old methods haven’t helped this problem, and in fact, they seem to make it worse.”
Some drug manufacturers and distributors, including Johnson & Johnson They also chose to settle cases against them for their alleged contributions to the opioid crisis, which has killed more than 500,000 Americans over the past 20 years. Kevin Roy, chief public policy officer at advocacy group Shatterproof Advocacy Solutions, said Tuesday’s ruling could prompt other pharmacies to consider a settlement.
“It’s a signal that the public, at least in specific places, feels that there is exposure and needs treatment,” Roy said.
However, Roy noted that the various courts handling opioid cases have not been consistent in their rulings and that the details of public nuisance laws vary from state to state. Earlier this month, a California judge ruled in favor of drug manufacturers in a case brought by the city of Oakland and three counties. And in Oklahoma on November 9, the state Supreme Court overturned a 2019 ruling $465 million against Johnson & Johnson.
“There have been a variety of different decisions recently that should give us reason to be careful about what this really means in the grand scheme,” Roy said.
It is not yet clear how much Walgreens, CVS and Walmart will have to pay to Trumbull and Lake County. The judge is expected to rule on damages to rule the case in the spring.