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Walgreens, CVS and Walmart ordered to cover $650 million in opioid lawsuit

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A judge wrote that the pharmacies had dispensed the drugs “without effective controls and procedures,” thereby adding to the harm of the drug epidemic.

OxyContin pills at a pharmacy in Vermont in 2013. Toby Talbo/AP Photo, File

By Marina Lopes and Meryl Kornfield, Washington Post

A federal judge ordered three of the countrys largest pharmacy chains to cover $650.5 million to two Ohio counties they were found to possess flooded with prescription painkillers. The court said in a landmark judgment that CVS, Walgreens and Walmart must bear a few of the cost that the opioid epidemic has wrought on Lake and Trumbull counties, outside Cleveland.

The award employs a first-of-its-kind federal trial targeting the three major retailers, that have a few of the deepest pockets left in the legal battle on the epidemic. A great many other major drug distributors and makers have settled or filed for bankruptcy.

A jury ruled this past year that the pharmacies played a substantial role in the crisis faced by both counties. U.S. District Judge Dan A. Polster in Cleveland wrote they had dispensed the drugs without effective controls and procedures to avoid the pills from being abused and resold and so are thus partially in charge of the damage the epidemic has caused in both communities.

The retailers may also be necessary to train personnel on the dispensing of controlled substances, develop a hotline by which patients and employees can report inappropriate sales of painkillers, and appoint a controlled-substance compliance officer to examine prescription validation processes.

The order is likely to be considered a bellwether for a large number of other communities attempting to hold pharmacies in charge of their role in the opioid epidemic, which includes killed half of a million Americans since 1999, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Earlier this month, a federal judge in SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA ruled that Walgreens fueled that citys opioid epidemic by shipping and dispensing the addictive drugs without proper homework.

Federal law requires pharmacies to find out that prescriptions have already been issued for legitimate medical purposes before filling them. The counties attorneys argued that the retailers oversupplied the blue-collar counties in Ohio with an increase of pills than may have possibly been medically necessary. Between 2012 and 2016, pharmacies dispensed 61 million pills in Lake County, enough to provide every man, woman and child with 265 pills, lawyers have estimated.

The pharmacies have pushed back contrary to the counties claims, instead blaming doctors for overprescribing.

Walmart said in a statement that the counties were searching for deep pockets and that the ruling was riddled with legal errors. It plans to appeal.

Rather than addressing the true factors behind the opioid crisis, like pill mill doctors, illegal drugs and regulators asleep at the switch, plaintiffs lawyers wrongly claimed that pharmacists must second-guess doctors in ways regulations never intended and several federal and state health regulators say inhibits the doctor-patient relationship, Walmart said.

CVS and Walgreens didn’t immediately react to requests for comment.

A specialist who testified for the counties estimated that it could cost them some $3.3 billion to recuperate from the epidemic, although judge accepted that some abuse and addiction could have occurred even minus the retailers involvement. Polster ruled that the pharmacies must pay both counties a lot more than $300 million each in installments on the next 15 years.

The award is far greater than settlements received by other counties in opioid litigation. IN-MAY, Walgreens settled an identical lawsuit, agreeing to pay $620 million to hawaii of Florida all together.

I’m grateful to the Court for recognizing the Opioid epidemic as a public health crisis. This decision holds Big Pharma in charge of the fantastic harm and lives lost because of the overselling of Opioids, Lake County Commissioner John Plecnik said in a statement. Hopefully the legal precedent that Lake and Trumbull Counties have won together will set the stage for all of those other nation and help end the opioid epidemic.

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