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Jury holds pharmacies, including Walmart, responsible for role in opioid crisis

by Associated Press | November 23, 2021 at 2:04 p.m.
A car enters Trumbull County, Wednesday, in this photo from Nov. 17, 2021, near Warren, Ohio. Three retail pharmacy chains recklessly distributed massive amounts of pain pills in two Ohio counties, a federal jury said Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, in a verdict that could set the tone for U.S. city and county governments that want to hold pharmacies accountable for their roles in the opioid crisis. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — Three retail pharmacy chains recklessly distributed massive amounts of pain pills in two Ohio counties, a federal jury said Tuesday in a verdict that could set the tone for U.S. city and county governments that want to hold pharmacies accountable for their roles in the opioid crisis.

The counties blamed pharmacies operated by CVS, Walgreens and Walmart for not stopping the flood of pills that caused hundreds of overdose deaths and cost each of the two counties about $1 billion, their attorney said.

This was the first time pharmacy companies had completed a trial to defend themselves in a drug crisis that has killed a half-million Americans over the past two decades. How much the pharmacies must pay in damages will be decided in the spring by federal judge.

Lake and Trumbull counties were able to convince the jury that the pharmacies played an outsized role in creating a public nuisance in the way they dispensed pain medication into their communities.

Attorneys for the three pharmacy chains maintained they had policies to stem the flow of pills when their pharmacists had any concerns and would notify authorities about suspicious orders from doctors.

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