Sat. Nov 27th, 2021

A U.S. federal jury has found that CVS, Walgreens and Walmart have contributed to a deadly opioid epidemic in two Ohio provinces, a ruling that could set a precedent for thousands of lawsuits pending against pharmacy chains.

Lawyers for Lake and Trumbull counties allege that the chains operated by the three companies did not do enough to prevent sales of addictive painkillers to residents, which contributed to hundreds of overdose deaths and cost authorities $ 1 billion.

The landmark case is the first time that pharmacy chains are held liable at the conclusion of a hearing for the contribution to a opioid epidemic which has killed more than half a million Americans over two decades.

Thousands of similar lawsuits are pending in the US, where state and local governments are trying to recover tens of billions of dollars in social and health care costs linked to the crisis.

In July, US states agreed on a $ 26 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson and three of the largest drug distributors in the US – McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen – to resolve allegations that the companies contributed to the epidemic.

The jury on Tuesday found the pharmacy chains had created a public nuisance in the way they dispensed opioids and dismissed arguments that doctors and drug manufacturers were primarily to blame for the crisis.

Judge Dan Polster, who oversees about 3,000 such cases, is expected to rule on how much the pharmacy chains will have to pay in damages after the jury verdict.

However, CVS, Walmart and Walgreens said they would appeal against the ruling in a move that could lead to an extensive legal battle.

“Opioid prescriptions are written by doctors, not pharmacists; opioid medication is made and marketed by manufacturers, not pharmacists, ”CVS said.

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned a $ 465 million ruling against J&J, arguing that the district court that heard the case earlier had erred in its law on public nuisance to the manufacture, marketing and sale of prescription drugs. to knit.

Nevertheless, legal experts said the jury verdict against the pharmacies could set a precedent, as courts across the U.S. are considering similar cases.

“This jury verdict could have significant implications for the many other cities and provinces that plaintiffs in the [litigation], led by Judge Polster, ”said Carl Tobias, a professor at Richmond University’s law school.

“The ruling could also affect judges and juries hearing other opioid cases in the U.S. and suggest the nuisance theory is viable.”

Lawyers for Lake and Trumbull counties said the ruling represents the “overdue settlement” for Walmart, Walgreens and CVS ‘complicity in creating a public nuisance.

“For decades, pharmacy chains have been watching the pills that flow out at their doors cause damage and fail to take steps as required by law,” the lawyers said in a statement. “Instead, these companies responded by opening up more locations, flooding communities with pills and facilitating the flow of opioids to an illegal, secondary market.”

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