facebook linkedin twitter

Ohio Jury Faults Pharmacies for Spurring Opioid Epidemic

November 24, 2021 by Tom Ramstack
Ohio Jury Faults Pharmacies for Spurring Opioid Epidemic

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A landmark jury verdict Tuesday could make major pharmacy chains like CVS, Walgreens and Walmart liable for encouraging the opioid epidemic that kills thousands of Americans each year. 

The verdict in federal court in Ohio is the first to uphold a legal theory underpinning about 3,000 lawsuits nationwide.

Unlike other recent judgments in Oklahoma and California state courts, the U.S. District Court in Cleveland found that the pharmacies created a “public nuisance” by selling a dangerous drug despite its known risks of addiction, overdose and death.

If the decision survives on appeal, it would vastly increase the liability for opioid complications, according to attorneys who handled the case.


The pharmacies “engaged in intentional and/or illegal conduct [that] was a substantial factor in producing the public nuisance,” according to the verdict form. 

A separate court proceeding is scheduled for the spring to determine the penalty for the pharmacies. The plaintiffs are suggesting more than $1 billion for addiction treatment of residents in the two Ohio counties that sued.

“Today’s verdict represents a milestone victory for the Lake County and Trumbull County communities, and the entire country, in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” lawyers for the plaintiffs said in a joint statement.

Lake and Trumbull county officials blamed the pharmacies for making opioids available to consumers in amounts that far exceeded their medical needs. The pharmacies’ business practices “produced a permanent or long-lasting effect upon the public right,” their Aug. 19, 2021 court filing says. 


The trial was the first to hold pharmacies responsible for the opioid epidemic and the first that represented a victory for a local government. Other lawsuits have named opioid distributors and manufacturers as defendants.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned a $465 million judgment this month against pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. In California this month, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against drug manufacturers that make opioids.

All three of the pharmacies said they would appeal. They argued during the trial that they complied with all laws and Food and Drug Administration regulations.

If anyone other than the patients were to be blamed, it was the doctors, they said.

“Prescribers, they have the greatest control over the spigot,” said Brian Swanson, attorney for Walgreens, during closing arguments.

A Walgreens statement said “the trial court committed significant legal errors in allowing the case to go before a jury on a flawed legal theory that is inconsistent with Ohio law.”

A Walmart statement said the trial “was engineered to favor the plaintiffs’ attorneys and was riddled with remarkable legal and factual mistakes.”


CVS officials said they “look forward to the appeals court review of this case, including the misapplication of public nuisance law.”

Tom can be reached at [email protected].

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Prescription Drugs

April 27, 2022
by Tom Ramstack
Lawmakers Say Consulting Firm Marketing Contributed to Half-Million Opioid Deaths

WASHINGTON — A congressional panel cast suspicions on a global business consulting firm Wednesday as a potential villain in the... Read More

WASHINGTON — A congressional panel cast suspicions on a global business consulting firm Wednesday as a potential villain in the opioid epidemic that has killed more than a half-million Americans. A McKinsey & Co. official admitted to earning at least $86 million for helping pharmaceutical companies... Read More

April 19, 2022
by Dan McCue
Supreme Court Seeks Solicitor General Input on Biologic Drug Patents

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar to weigh in on a drug patent... Read More

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar to weigh in on a drug patent case the outcome of which could ultimately be worth billions of dollars. The case, Amgen v. Sanofi, emanates from the U.S. District Court for the Federal... Read More

House Passes $35-a-Month Insulin Cap as Dems Seek Wider Bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has passed a bill capping the monthly cost of insulin at $35 for insured patients,... Read More

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House has passed a bill capping the monthly cost of insulin at $35 for insured patients, part of an election-year push by Democrats for price curbs on prescription drugs at a time of rising inflation. Experts say the legislation, which passed 232-193... Read More

March 30, 2022
by Dan McCue
House to Vote on Insulin Price Reduction Bill Thursday

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday is expected to vote to cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin for consumers at... Read More

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday is expected to vote to cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin for consumers at $35 per month. If also passed by the Senate, which is expected to vote the measure up by Easter, the long-awaited reform will go into effect... Read More

March 19, 2022
by TWN
Congressional Panel Takes Deep Dive Into Future of FDA’s Accelerated Approvals

WASHINGTON — The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health panel Thursday spent the majority of their time considering the... Read More

WASHINGTON — The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health panel Thursday spent the majority of their time considering the future of the Food and Drug Administration's so-called Accelerated Approval Program. A number of the 20 different health care-related bills discussed by the subcommittee figure in... Read More

March 19, 2022
by TWN
CMS Decision to Limit Coverage of Alzheimer’s Treatment Takes Center Stage

WASHINGTON — A House panel scheduled to kick the tires on roughly 20 different health care-related bills on Thursday spent... Read More

WASHINGTON — A House panel scheduled to kick the tires on roughly 20 different health care-related bills on Thursday spent time considering the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to grant accelerated approval to the first disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and the Centers for Medicare and... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top