Ohio Jury Finds Walgreens, Walmart, CVS Liable In Opioid Crisis

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Pharmacy chain operators CVS Health Corp., Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Walmart Inc. are responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic in two Ohio counties, according to a federal jury in Cleveland, Ohio.

The verdict reportedly marks the first from a jury in an opioid case in the United States, where thousands of lawsuits are pending regarding the opioid overdose and related deaths. Most of these lawsuits accuse that pharmaceutical companies contributed to a public nuisance.

In the Ohio lawsuit, attorneys of Lake and Trumbull Counties in northeastern Ohio argued that the pharmacy chains created public nuisance in the years-long crisis. The companies were accused of deliberately ignoring the oversupply of opioids and failing to stop false prescriptions from being filled, hurting public health and safety. The also helped the diversion of those opioids to the black market.

The counties argued that the pharmacy companies' lack of actions had cost them each about $1 billion in law-enforcement, social-services and court expenses.

Further hearings in the lawsuit are expected in April or May, when the trial judge will determine each company's fine towards the counties.

Meanwhile,CVS, Walgreens and Walmart reportedly said they would appeal the verdict.

Recently, Judges in California and Oklahoma had rejected the public nuisance argument in state cases against opioid manufacturers.

In a report last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the U.S. recorded 100,306 drug deaths in the 12 months ended April 2021, the highest number of drug-overdose deaths. The latest CDC data shows a nearly 29 percent rise from the deaths recorded in the same period a year earlier.

Over two decades, by 2019, the health crisis led to nearly 500,000 opioid overdose deaths, the officials say.

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