CVS, Walgreens, Walmart Contributed to Opioid Crisis, Ohio Jury Finds

Three of the largest chain in the country pharmaciesAnd CVSAnd Walgreens, And Walmart, participate in The opioid crisis in two Ohio counties, a federal jury found on Tuesday.

The jury found that the three drugstore chains had sold and distributed large quantities of pain pills in Lake and Trumbull counties, thereby helping fuel the opioid crisis. Some legally purchased pills were sold on the black market.

The counties’ attorneys said their actions caused hundreds of overdose deaths and cost each of the two counties nearly $1 billion.

A federal judge will decide in the spring how much pharmacies must pay in damages to Ohio counties.

Both CVS and Walgreens say they plan to appeal the ruling, while Walmart has yet to comment on the matter.

It was the first time that pharmaceutical companies completed an experiment to defend themselves in a drug crisis that has killed half a million Americans over the past two decades.

The counties were able to convince the jury that pharmacies played a large role in creating a public nuisance in the way pain medications are distributed in their communities.

The law requires pharmacies to be diligent in handling medicines. “This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted,” said Mark Lanier, district attorney.

Lawyers for CVS, Walgreens and Walmart have argued that they have policies in place to limit grain flow when concerns arise. They also emphasized that if they received suspicious orders from doctors, they would alert the authorities.

Ohio counties attorneys called the jury’s decision a “historic victory.”

“For decades, pharmacy chains have been monitoring pills pouring out of their doors to cause harm and have failed to take the measures required by federal law,” they said.

“As plaintiffs’ experts have 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.

Walgreens spokesperson Fraser Ingerman said the company believes the court erred “by allowing the case to appear in jury over a flawed legal theory inconsistent with Ohio law.”

“As we have said throughout this process, we have never manufactured or marketed opioids nor distributed them to the ‘grain mills’ and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis,” Ingerman said in a statement. “The plaintiffs’ attempt to solve the opioid crisis with the unprecedented expansion of the Public Nuisance Act is misguided and unsustainable.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on November 18 that more than 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in the 12 months ending in April — a record high, and up 28.5 percent from the previous year.

The CDC listed fentanyl as the leading drug in overdose deaths. The class of synthetic opioids, which includes fentanyl, accounted for 64 percent of all overdose deaths. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that has long been blamed for the rising rate of overdose deaths in the United States.

President Joe Biden called it a “tragic milestone.”

“As we continue to take strides to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, we cannot overlook this epidemic of loss, which has affected families and communities across the country,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Isabelle van Bruggen

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Isabelle van Bruggen is an award-winning journalist and currently a news reporter for The Epoch Times. She holds an MA in Journalism from City University of London.

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