Sun. Nov 28th, 2021

The pharmacies have failed to create monitoring systems with a legal mandate to detect illegal prescriptions, the jury in Cleveland, Ohio, said.

A Cleveland jury has ruled in favor of Walmart Inc., CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. helped create a public health crisis by not properly monitoring opioid prescriptions, the drug industry’s latest loss in the growing litigation over the painkillers.

The federal court panel supported allegations from Northeast Ohio’s Trumbull and Lake Counties that the pharmacy chains had failed to create legally mandatory monitoring systems to detect illegal opioid prescriptions. The provinces are seeking billions of dollars in compensation for the cost of dealing with addictions and fatal overdoses. Similar cases are pending against drug manufacturers and distributors. A judge will hear arguments in May over the provinces’ compensation claims.

Walmart and other pharmacy operators argued the municipalities could not prove that they created a so-called “public nuisance” through lax prescription oversight when the scripts were written by licensed doctors. They also introduced their systems designed to help pharmacists track patients’ visits, making it easier to spot red flags between prescriptions.

This is the first jury verdict in the extensive, four-year opioid litigation. Municipalities across the country have accused opioid manufacturers, distributors and sellers of downplaying the painkillers’ addiction risks and sacrificing patient safety for billions in profits. The jurors in Cleveland deliberated for more than five days before returning the unanimous verdict on Tuesday.

‘Sounds like a bell’

“The jury’s decision sounds like a bell to be heard by pharmacy companies across the country,” Ohio State Attorney General Mark Lanier said after the verdict was announced. “Laws regarding proper monitoring of prescription drugs are taken seriously and not ignored or downplayed.”

The companies have all said they will appeal against the ruling. “We look forward to the appellate court reviewing this case, including the misapplication of public nuisance law,” CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said in an email. “The facts and law do not support the ruling,” Walgreen’s Fraser Engelman added.

“We will appeal against this flawed verdict, which is a reflection of a trial designed to benefit the plaintiffs’ attorneys and was riddled with remarkable legal and factual errors,” Walmart spokeswoman Randy Hargrove said in a statement. said an email statement.

Ohio is one of the states plagued by the opioid crisis, which has killed nearly 500,000 Americans over two decades. Trumbull and Lake Counties claim they have been flooded with 140 million pills over a six-year period that began in 2006.

Recent industry wins

The Cleveland ruling follows recent victories in opioid cases for the pharmaceutical industry. A California judge earlier this month rejected four municipalities’ allegations that Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and other opioid manufacturers created a public nuisance by flooding the state with the painkillers.

Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court threw out a $ 465 million grant to the state over what the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office claimed to be misleading opioid marketing campaigns. West Virginia city and district officials are awaiting a federal judge’s ruling in a public lawsuit against McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen

The Cleveland case was also the first jury trial to emerge from the more than 4,000 opioid cases consolidated before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, which encouraged a national solution to all claims. While some local agreements have been reached to avoid trials, Polster has criticized pharmacy providers in the past for not coming up with a broader settlement.

Holly Froum, a Bloomberg Intelligence analyst following the opioid litigation, said Tuesday that the drug industry faces about $ 50 billion in exposure to state and local government affairs over the painkillers. Of that total, pharmacies will eventually pay “about $ 10 billion or less,” she said in an interview.

To drive arguments home, the companies turned a blind eye to suspicious opioid prescriptions, Lanier used props such as baking sieves and a bridge built from Legos to persuade the panel to hold the pharmacy operators responsible for their opioid crimes.

“These three pharmacies will not admit that they did something wrong,” he said in closing remarks. “None of these pharmacies are charities. They are all profitable entities. “They make money from every pill they sell,” he said. “And if they do not want to do the job right to sell these pills, they must be held accountable.”

The consolidated case before Upholstery is In Re National Prescription Opioid Litigation, 17-md-2804, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland).

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