A US federal judge in Cleveland awarded $650 million in punitive damages Wednesday to two Ohio counties that won a landmark lawsuit against national pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens and Walmart , alleging that the way they distribute opioids to customers has caused serious harm to the community.
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster said in the ruling that the money would be used to reduce continue opioid crisis in Lake and Trumbull counties, suburbs of Cleveland. District attorneys have set a price of $1 billion for damages caused to each county.
Lake County will receive $306 million over 15 years. Trumbull County will receive $344 million in the same period. Polster requires companies to pay nearly $87 million to cover the first two years of the cut plan.
In his ruling, Polster warned the three companies, saying they “wasted the opportunity to present a meaningful plan to reduce nuisance”.
Walmart released a statement saying that the district attorneys “sued Walmart seeking large sums of money and this ruling follows a trial designed to benefit the plaintiffs’ attorneys and has many notable legal and practical mistakes. We will appeal.”
A Walgreens spokesperson also said the company would appeal.
Spokesman Fraser Engerman said: “The facts and the law do not support the jury’s verdict last fall, nor do they support the court’s decision. “The court made serious legal errors by allowing the case to go before a jury over a flawed legal theory inconsistent with Ohio law and adding those errors to its ruling regarding the matter. in relation to damage.”
CVS did not immediately respond to the Associated Press’ request for comment.
“Today’s news means we will soon have the resources we need to expand aid to properly address the harms caused by this devastating disease,” said Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda. know in a statement.
Lake County Commissioner John Hamercheck in a statement said: “Today marks the beginning of a new day in our fight to end the opioid epidemic.”
A jury returned a ruling in November in favor of the counties after a six-week trial. Polster will then decide how much money the counties will receive from the three drug companies. He heard testimony in May to determine how much damage the counties should receive.
CVS is headquartered in Rhode Island, Walgreens in Illinois and Walmart in Arkansas.
The counties convinced the jury that pharmacies played too much of a role in creating community nuisance in the way they dispensed pain medication into their communities.
This is the first time that pharmaceutical companies have completed a test to protect themselves in a drug crisis has killed half a million Americans since 1999.
Lawyers for the pharmacy chain insist that they have policies in place to stem the flow of drugs when their pharmacists are concerned and will notify authorities of suspicious orders from doctors. They also say that doctors control how many pills are prescribed for legitimate medical needs, not their pharmacy.
The pharmacy chains said after the trial they would appeal the jury’s decision.
Two chains – Rite Aid and Giant Eagle – have settled lawsuits with pre-trial counties. The amount they paid was not disclosed publicly.
Mark Lanier, a district attorney, said during the trial that pharmacies are trying to blame everyone but themselves.
The opioid crisis Lanier told jurors that overwhelmed the courts, social services and law enforcement agencies in the blue-collar corner of Ohio, leaving heartbroken families and children born to those addicted mother.
About 80 million prescription painkillers were dispensed in Trumbull County alone between 2012 and 2016 – the equivalent of 400 per resident. In Lake County, about 61 million pills were distributed during that time.
Kaspar Stoffelmayr, an attorney for Walgreens, said that at the opening of the trial, doctors’ prescriptions for pain relievers like oxycodone and hydrocodone were on the rise as medical groups began to recognize that patients have a right to treatment. pain relief.
The problem, he said, is that “drug manufacturers trick doctors into writing too many pills.”
Counties say pharmacies should be the last line of defense to prevent these pills from falling into the wrong hands.
The trial before Polster was part of a broader series of about 3,000 federal opioid lawsuits that were compiled under his supervision. Other cases are underway in state courts.
Kevin Roy, public policy director for Shatterproof, an organization that advocates for addiction solutions, said in November that the ruling could lead pharmacies to follow the path of large dispensing companies and some Drug manufacturers have achieved drug cases worth billions of dong nationwide. So far, no pharmacy has come forward to solve the problem nationwide.