Pharmacy chains failed to prevent opioid misuse, U.S. jury hears By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Walgreens retailer is seen in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. February 11, 2021. REUTERS/Eileen T. Meslar

By Grant Segall

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Pharmacy operators together with CVS Well being Corp (NYSE:) and Walmart (NYSE:) Inc fueled the U.S. opioid epidemic by failing to cease huge portions of addictive painkillers from reaching the black market, a lawyer for 2 Ohio counties mentioned at first of a trial on Monday.

Mark Lanier advised a federal jury in Cleveland listening to the primary trial the pharmacy chains have confronted in nationwide litigation over the epidemic that the businesses bore accountability for drug abuse within the counties of Lake and Trumbull.

“They simply distributed like a merchandising machine,” Lanier mentioned in his opening assertion.

He mentioned the 4 pharmacy operators now on trial, who additionally embrace Walgreens Boots Alliance (NASDAQ:) Inc and Large Eagle Inc, have been “the final line of protection” towards folks acquiring tablets to illicitly promote on the streets.

Lanier mentioned the businesses didn’t make use of sufficient pharmacists to do the job proper, didn’t determine “crimson flags” of misuse and prioritized filling prescriptions rapidly whereas sufferers shopped at their retail shops.

“From the very starting, they have been supposed to coach their pharmacists, and so they did not,” Lanier mentioned. “From the very starting, they need to have given the pharmacists the instruments they’d want and so they did not.”

Kaspar Stoffelmayr, a lawyer for Walgreens, countered that others have been in charge for the surge in ache tablets, together with medical doctors who prescribed them and regulators who noticed ache as needing important remedy.

“Pharmacists do not create calls for,” he mentioned. “They do not inform medical doctors what prescriptions to put in writing.”

Most cases of opioids being diverted for illicit makes use of didn’t contain pharmacies, Stoffelmayr mentioned. He cited a examine displaying that almost all prescribed ache tablets go unused and sit in medication cupboards. “Quite a lot of them find yourself in mistaken palms.”

Opening statements will proceed on Tuesday with arguments from the opposite corporations. They deny wrongdoing, saying criminals have been extra more likely to acquire opioids illegally from different sources, together with capsule mills, crooked medical doctors and drug traffickers.

Greater than 3,300 instances have been introduced largely by state and native governments in search of to carry the businesses chargeable for an opioid abuse epidemic that U.S. authorities knowledge exhibits led to almost 500,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2019.

The pharmacy operators have by no means confronted trial earlier than within the litigation.

Ought to jurors discover the businesses created a public nuisance, U.S. District Decide Dan Polster will decide how a lot they have to pay to abate, or deal with, the well being disaster within the communities. He has urged the events to settle.

The trial comes after the three largest U.S. distributors that provide pharmacies – McKesson Corp (NYSE:), Cardinal Well being Inc (NYSE:) and AmerisourceBergen (NYSE:) Corp – and the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:) in July proposed paying as much as $26 billion to settle instances towards them.

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

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