CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart Held Liable for Role in Opioid Crisis

A jury has decided that CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart are responsible for playing a role in America’s ongoing opioid crisis. The jury determined that these pharmacies recklessly distributed significant amounts of pain pills.

The federal case concerns opioid overuse in two Ohio counties. Other governments across the country may use the case as a template for holding pharmacies liable for opioid deaths and addiction problems.

Lake and Trumbull counties, in Ohio, asserted that these three pharmacies played an outsized role in the opioid epidemic. They faulted these companies for doing little to stop the flow of pills that have killed scores of patients. Additionally, these counties incurred major expenses to handle the fallout from opioid overdoses. In fact, each county in this case spent about $1 billion.

Damages Have Not Been Determined

A federal judge will decide in the spring how much the pharmacies must pay.

The verdict marks the first time pharmacies have carried to trial a lawsuit concerning their liability for opioid deaths. The opioid crisis has killed up to a half million Americans in the last two decades. Other parties, besides pharmacies, have settled claims or announced plans to do so.

Since the opioid epidemic began, state and local governments across the country have been in crisis mode. Public health systems have been overwhelmed with addictions, overdoses, and deaths. Taxpayers have had to pay substantial sums of money to contend with the crisis.

For a long time, these governments have pointed a finger at opioid drug makers. But they haven’t overlooked the role that pharmacies have played in flooding communities with these drugs.

The counties have argued that pharmacies owe the public a duty of care. That duty requires them to safely dispense drugs with public safety in mind. For too long, however, pharmacies have neglected or even abandoned that obligation. Indeed, plaintiffs have made the argument that pharmacies turned a blind eye to the dangers they’ve caused in dispensing opioids over the years.

Attorneys for the pharmacies argued they had policies in place to prevent abuse. For example, pharmacists could flag suspicious orders so the proper authorities would be notified. Also, they deflected blame to the doctors prescribing the medications. From their point of view, they were simply dispensing legal drugs pursuant to legitimate prescriptions.

The Pharmacies Have Promised to Appeal

Opioids are painkillers known for their highly addictive qualities. Oxycontin, morphine, hydrocodone, and methadone are some examples. These drugs are known to cause mild side effects, but are notorious for their serious effects, such as:

  • Addiction
  • Withdrawal
  • Breathing problems
  • Heart problems
  • Overdoses
  • Death

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health crisis over opioids in 2017. In addition to pharmacies, the manufacturers of these drugs have been in legal hot water concerning these drugs.

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Legal claims have focused on whether pharmacies and others neglected public safety with respect to opioids. Although claims against pharmacies haven’t gotten as much attention, the above case shows that they can be held liable.

Turning a blind eye to the real harm done by these drugs is not acceptable. Focusing on profitability over public safety isn’t a viable excuse. And victims, who were typically not warned of the dangers of opioids, may be able to demand compensation.

At Rueb Stoller Daniel, we represent individuals harmed by dangerous drugs like opioids. If you or someone you love has been injured, you could have a legal claim. But there may be a deadline to take action.

Give us a call today to learn more about your options. We can schedule a confidential consultation and discuss the details of your case.