Ohio Judge Heard Whether Pharmacy Chains Should Pay To Lead Opioid Crisis | Opioid crisis

A Cleveland federal judge began hearing demands that three of the largest drugstore chains in the United States pay billions of dollars in restitution after a jury found that they helped lead the opioid epidemic in America.

The size of the award against CVS, Walgreens and Walmart for recklessly distributing narcotic painkillers in two Ohio counties will help decide the full payment in thousands of federal cases across the country involving drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies accused of having fueled a drug epidemic that claimed more than a million lives in two decades.

The hearing began following the criminal convictions of dozens of doctors who were top prescribers for the largest opioid manufacturer in the United States, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals. The Washington Post reported that 65 of the company’s 239 top pain pill prescribers in 2013, at the height of the prescription opioid epidemic, were jailed, fined, or lost their medical license.

Mallinckrodt at one point accounted for the largest share of the high-potency opioid pill market, taking over from Purdue Pharma, which produced OxyContin, the drug that started the outbreak after its release in 1997.

According to documents and depositions released as part of a legal settlement, Mallinckrodt teamed up with other opioid manufacturers to push doctors who were already prescribing large quantities of narcotics to give patients even more drugs and at higher doses, grossly underestimating the risks. of addiction.

Many of these doctors were arrested for running “pill factory” pain clinics that dispensed opioids without following proper medical procedure, fraud and other crimes. Among them was Fathalla Mashali, who ran four clinics in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where her employees had already complained to authorities about her “unprofessional, unethical and illegal behavior.” Mashali was arrested while attempting to leave the country and sentenced to eight years in federal prison in 2018.

Another was George Griffin, a doctor the Mallinckrodt sales force valued for his prolific opioid prescription and who was sent to jail last year for illegally distributing narcotics.

The Cleveland court decision centers on two Ohio counties, Lake and Trumbull, which are part of a federal Bellwether case that decides the degree of guilt and the amount of payments for thousands of opioid lawsuits filed by municipalities. counties and indigenous tribes across the country.

Ohio counties attorneys said everyone needs at least $ 1 billion to address the fallout from opioid addiction and deaths. Those attorneys say about 400 pain relief pills were dispensed for every Trumbull County resident when mass opioid prescribing was at its worst.

The parties in another parochial trial involving distributors accused of illegally flooding West Virginia with opioids – resulting in the nation’s highest overdose rate – are awaiting a verdict. According to evidence during the trial, pharmaceutical executives circulated emails mocking “pills” that became addicted to painkillers.

Another major case that should be heard comes from a Cherokee Nation lawsuit against major drug distributor McKesson.

But shocking revelations about the greed and cynicism of major opioid manufacturers such as Mallinckrodt, Purdue Pharma, and Johnson & Johnson during the litigation stages have prompted more and more drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy chains to settle without going to trial. .

Collectively, so far, they have agreed to pay over $ 40 billion, albeit without admitting wrongdoing.

Earlier this month, CVIS and Walgreens agreed to pay Florida hundreds of millions to settle opioid delivery complaints. Last year, Johnson & Johnson announced it would stop manufacturing opioid pain relievers after litigation uncovered disregard for patients among its sales force.

In a company note, a sales rep said they dismissed a doctor’s fears that patients might become addicted to opioids by telling him that those who didn’t die likely wouldn’t be hooked.

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