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Pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, Walmart helped fuel opioid epidemic, U.S. jury finds

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Nov 23 (Reuters) – A federal jury on Tuesday discovered that pharmacy chain operators CVS Health Corp (CVS.N), Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) and Walmart Inc (WMT.N) helped fuel an opioid epidemic in two Ohio counties, within the first trial the businesses have confronted over the U.S. drug disaster.

Jurors in Cleveland federal court docket after six days of deliberations concluded that actions by the pharmacy chains helped create a public nuisance that resulted in an oversupply of addictive ache drugs and the diversion of these opioids to the black market.

The verdict has the potential to provide state and native governments new leverage of their efforts to barter settlements that will resolve 1000’s of different instances in opposition to the pharmacy operators.

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“The judgment today against Walmart, Walgreens and CVS represents the overdue reckoning for their complicity in creating a public nuisance,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys stated in a joint assertion.

Jurors solely assessed legal responsibility. It is as much as U.S. District Judge Dan Polster to resolve how a lot the businesses owe to abate, or handle, the general public nuisance in Ohio’s Lake and Trumbull counties.

The counties’ attorneys have stated the prices are doubtlessly $1 billion for every county. A trial on the problem is predicted subsequent yr.

Stock costs for the businesses briefly fell after the decision however shortly rebounded and had been all up lower than 1%.

CVS, Walgreens and Walmart stated they’d attraction the decision, arguing it ran opposite to the details and that it misapplied public nuisance legislation to carry them liable underneath a novel authorized principle that courts in California and Oklahoma have lately rejected in comparable instances in opposition to drugmakers.

“We will appeal this flawed verdict, which is a reflection of a trial that was engineered to favor the plaintiffs’ attorneys and was riddled with remarkable legal and factual mistakes,” Walmart stated.

U.S. officers have stated that by 2019 the well being disaster led to almost 500,000 opioid overdose deaths over 20 years.

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The mixture photograph reveals a emblem of CVS in Manhattan, New York, U.S., August 1, 2016, re-usable Walmart baggage in a newly opened Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago September 21, 2011 and a Walgreens signal within the Chicago suburb of Niles, Illinois, February 10, 2015. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Jim Young

Over 100,000 folks died from drug overdoses through the 12-month interval ending April 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated in a report final week, a document pushed largely by deaths from opioids like fentanyl. learn extra

THOUSANDS OF LAWSUITS

More than 3,300 opioid lawsuits have been filed nationally in opposition to drug producers, distributors and pharmacies, culminating with lots of the firms – although not the pharmacies – agreeing to proposed world settlements.

The three largest U.S. distributors that provide pharmacies and hospitals – McKesson Corp (MCK.N), Cardinal Health Inc (CAH.N) and AmerisourceBergen Corp (ABC.N) – and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) in July proposed paying as much as $26 billion to settle a lot of the lawsuits in opposition to them. learn extra

A chapter choose in September accepted a settlement by OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and its rich Sackler household house owners that the corporate values at greater than $10 billion.

The pharmacies, nevertheless, went to trial regardless of the urging of the choose to settle.

At trial, attorneys for Lake and Trumbull counties argued that the pharmacies failed to make sure opioid prescriptions had been legitimate and allowed extreme portions of addictive ache drugs to flood their communities.

The pharmacy operators denied the allegations. They stated they took steps to protect in opposition to diversion of drugs and blamed others, together with docs, regulators and drug traffickers, for the epidemic.

The verdict adopted latest setbacks for plaintiffs pursuing a number of the different opioid instances nationally.

Oklahoma’s prime court docket on Nov. 9 overturned a $465 million judgment in opposition to J&J, and a California choose this month dominated in favor of 4 drugmakers in a case introduced by a number of giant counties.

Other trials are underway in New York involving drugmakers Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA) and AbbVie Inc (ABBV.N), and in Washington state with the three distributors.

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Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Additional reporting by Grant Segall in Cleveland; Editing by Bill Berkrot
Nate Raymond

Nate Raymond studies on the federal judiciary and litigation. He might be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.

The combination photo shows a logo of CVS in Manhattan, New York, U.S., August 1, 2016, re-usable Walmart bags in a newly opened Walmart Neighborhood Market in Chicago September 21, 2011 and a Walgreens sign in the Chicago suburb of Niles, Illinois, February 10, 2015.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/Jim Young

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