A jury in Cleveland, Ohio, said the pharmacies failed to establish a legally authorized monitoring system to detect illegal prescriptions.
The Cleveland jury concluded that Wal-Mart, CVS Health, and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. failed to properly monitor opioid prescriptions and helped create a public health crisis. This is the latest in the pharmaceutical industry’s expanding lawsuits over painkillers loss.
The federal court panel supported Trumbull and Lake Counties in northeastern Ohio that the pharmacy chain failed to establish a legally authorized surveillance system to detect illegal opioid prescriptions. These counties are seeking billions of dollars in reimbursement to cover the costs of dealing with addiction and fatal overdose. Similar lawsuits against drug manufacturers and distributors are under trial. The judge will hear a debate on the compensation claims of the counties in May.
Wal-Mart and other pharmacy operators argued that when the scripts were written by licensed doctors, the municipality could not prove that they had created so-called “public nuisances” through negligent prescription supervision. They also tout that their system is designed to help pharmacists track patient visits, making it easier to spot red flags in prescriptions.
This is the first jury verdict in this four-year opioid lawsuit. Municipalities across the country accuse opioid manufacturers, distributors and sellers of downplaying the addiction risk of painkillers and sacrificing patient safety for billions of dollars in profits. Cleveland’s jurors deliberated for more than five days and then reached a unanimous verdict on Tuesday.
“Ring the Bell”
“The jury’s decision is a wake-up call, and pharmacy companies across the country should hear it,” said Mark Lanier, the lead attorney in the counties of Ohio, after the verdict was announced. “Laws on the proper monitoring of prescription drugs should be taken seriously, not ignored or downplayed.”
These companies have indicated that they will appeal the verdict. “We look forward to the review of the case by the Court of Appeals, including the misuse of the public nuisance law,” CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis said in an emailed statement. “Facts and laws do not support the verdict,” Walgreens’ Fraser Engelman added.
Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said in an e-mailed statement: “We will appeal this flawed judgment, which reflects a trial designed to benefit the plaintiff’s lawyers and is full of obvious The law and facts are wrong.”
Ohio is one of the states ravaged by the opioid crisis, which has killed nearly half a million Americans in the past two decades. Trumbull and Lake counties claimed that they were overwhelmed by 140 million pills in the six years starting in 2006.
Recent industry victories
Cleveland’s decision came after the pharmaceutical industry’s recent victory in an opioid case. Earlier this month, a judge in California dismissed allegations from four municipalities that Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd. and other opioid manufacturers were flooding the state with painkillers to create public nuisance. .
Earlier this month, the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued $465 million in damages to the state for misleading opioid marketing activities accused by the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.City and county officials in West Virginia are waiting for a federal judge’s verdict on the public nuisance case of McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen
The Cleveland case was also the first jury trial in more than 4,000 opioid lawsuits tried by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who encouraged the nation to resolve all claims. Although some local deals have been concluded to avoid trials, Polster has criticized pharmacy suppliers for failing to come up with a broader solution.
Bloomberg Information analyst Holly Froum, who is involved in opioid lawsuits, said on Tuesday that the pharmaceutical industry faces about $50 billion in risks that state and local governments face due to painkiller lawsuits. She said in an interview that among them, the pharmacy will eventually pay “about 10 billion U.S. dollars or less.”
In order to eliminate the dispute, these companies turned a blind eye to suspicious opioid prescriptions. Lanier used props such as baking screens and bridges built with Lego bricks to persuade the expert team to hold pharmacy operators responsible for their opioid misconduct.
“These three pharmacies will not admit that they did something wrong,” he said in his closing statement. “These pharmacies are not charities. They are all profit-making entities. They profit from every pill they sell,” he pointed out. “If they don’t want to do the job of selling these pills, they should take responsibility.”
Polster’s combined case is In Re National Prescription Opioid Litigation, 17-md-2804, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (Cleveland).