Pharmacies are being held responsible for the first time in the opioid epidemic.
Big U.S. chain pharmacies CVS, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Walmart were deemed responsible in helping to fuel the opioid epidemic in two counties in northeastern Ohio.
It is the first time that large pharmacies have faced legal ramifications for the drug crisis. It is a historic ruling in the epidemic that has led to the deaths of more than 500,000 Americans. It opens the doors for the counties to seek more than $1 billion each to help in reparations to the communities for the death toll.
In Cleveland, a federal court determined that the pharmacies did nothing in order to stop the flow of 140 million pills that directly lead to hundreds of overdosing and dying.
Last month, the Lake and Trumbull counties in Ohio took the pharmacies to federal court, and argued that the companies failed to stop the flow of the pills. Lawyers for pharmacies shifted the blame, pointing at drug manufacturers, big Pharma, drug cartels, and even doctors. They also pointed at the FDA and DEA for approving the drugs and failing to monitor them after their approvals.
But the jury didn’t buy the displaced blame, and found unanimously that the pharmacies did indeed fuel the crisis.
This has been the first time that a jury has been involved in a case like this. There have been suits in the past, but those were directed at pharmaceutical companies and were settled by federal judges, without any juries involved. This case also marked the first time that pharmacies were forced onto the defense.
An appeal from the pharmacies is expected, with Walgreens already saying that there were “significant legal errors” with the case having a jury involved at all. Some legal experts say that a mistrial could have been declared because the jury had been exposed to outside research, making it an unfair trial.