💊What Is Retail Pharmacy's Role In The Opioid Crisis?
Consider it the first major blow to CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart over their contested role in the opioid epidemic. A federal jury in Cleveland, Ohio, has ruled that the three corporate giants are liable for creating a public nuisance in the sale and marketing of opiates to residents of Lake and Trumbull counties outside Cleveland. This is the first time a jury has found retail pharmacies guilty for their role in the crisis.
“The law requires pharmacies to be diligent in dealing drugs. This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted,” said prosecutor Mark Lanier, an attorney for the two counties, according to the Associated Press.
Following a hearing in the Spring, US District Judge Dan Polster will determine damages to be paid by the three companies. The three retailers along with RiteAid settled a suit in two New York counties recently for a combined $26 million, while in Oklahoma, the state Supreme Court overturned a $465 million ruling against Johnson & Johnson.
A Winning Strategy
State and local governments across the country are using "public nuisance" as the legal basis of their claims against retail pharmacy chains and drugmakers. However, two such trials—state cases in California and Oklahoma—were already rejected by their presiding judges who found that the law was being applied "too expansively" as per the specifics of public nuisance laws in each state, notes The New York Times. Yet, the Ohio verdict was delivered by a jury and not a judge, which changes the calculations for drugmakers, pharmacies, and prosecutors alike.
The guilty verdict against Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart was a huge victory for public health and community safety advocates in Ohio and beyond, proving that such a legal strategy can work. However, appeals are definitely on their way, and taking the case out of the hands of jurors may be a winning strategy for these companies.