Pharmacies like CVS and Walmart played a part in fueling the nation’s opioid crisis, an attorney representing two counties in Ohio told a jury in a federal lawsuit that began earlier this month in Cleveland.
According to Reuters, more than 3,000 opioid lawsuits have been brought, mostly by state and local governments. Plaintiffs in the lawsuits are seeking to hold those responsible for their role in a health crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 500,000 Americans over the last two decades.
What makes the Ohio federal trial different is that it is the first time that opioid litigation has centered around the alleged role that chain pharmacies have played in the opioid crisis.
Lake and Trumbull counties claim that the pharmacies did nothing to prevent the flood of opioid drugs from reaching the black market.
Plaintiffs’ attorney, Mark Lanier said during opening statements that the chain pharmacies named in the suit, which also includes Walgreens and Giant “Just dispensed [the drugs] like a vending machine,” per Reuters.
Lanier claimed that the pharmacies were the last line of defense against the illicit trade of the highly-addictive prescription painkillers.
These chain pharmacies, Lanier continued, failed to train and hire enough pharmacists to properly monitor the validity of prescription fillings that should have raised red flags.
Attorneys for the chain pharmacies maintained in opening statements that their clients were not at fault but rather the culpability lies with doctors who over-prescribed the opioids and the regulators who allowed the drugs to become readily available.
Individuals engaged in illicit opioid distribution were not likely to obtain the drugs from chain pharmacies, defense attorneys stated, adding that pill mills, corrupt doctors and drug traffickers were most often where opioid drugs were obtained on the black market.
In July, the nation’s three largest drug distributors—Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen—as well as Johnson & Johnson announced a $26 billion settlement plan to resolve opioid litigation against them.