Pharmacy chains are expected to pay $ 878 million for role of opioid epidemic, Ohio counties say

Pharmacy chains are expected to pay $ 878 million for role of opioid epidemic, Ohio counties say

CLEVELAND, May 10 (Reuters) – A lawyer from two Ohio counties said on Monday that CVS Health Corp (CVS.N), Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) and Walmart Inc (WMT.N) are expected to fund a plan $ 878 million to address the opioid crisis there, as a one-of-a-kind process was initiated to determine the contribution of pharmacy chains.

A federal jury ruled in November that companies created a public nuisance by flooding Ohio’s Lake and Trumbull counties with addictive pain relief pills that went on the black market – in the first trial, pharmacy chains faced the crisis. . Read more

Now, the counties want companies to fund an $ 878 million five-year plan that Mark Lanier, a lawyer representing the counties, on Monday said was aimed at solving the opioid crisis rather than blaming it.

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Lanier’s remarks came at the start of a two-week trial before US judge Dan Polster in Cleveland, who will decide how companies should correct a public nuisance caused by prescription opioids.

“I was commissioned to do something that no other federal judge in our country has been commissioned to do,” Polster said at the start of a no-jury trial.

CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart have denied the counties’ claims and said they would appeal the November verdict.

The companies have offered to fund a one-year program to buy back unused prescription opioid drugs in the two counties. They argue that Ohio’s public nuisance law requires them only to end the nuisance identified by the jury – an oversupply of prescription drugs – and not address all its detrimental effects on communities.

The companies have argued that if they have to do more than buy back drugs, they should not be forced to cover the costs of illegal drug use.

The counties have argued that illegal drug use must be addressed in the process, as addictions caused by oversupply of prescription drugs have created a market for illicit drugs such as heroin and synthetic fentanyl.

The opioid epidemic in the United States has caused more than 500,000 overdose deaths in two decades, according to government data. More than 3,300 opioid lawsuits have been filed nationwide against drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy chains, leading to a recent spate of proposed deals.

The Ohio County public nuisance theory was rarely tested during the trial and has had mixed results in other courts.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court on November 9 overturned a $ 465 million judgment against Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), and a California judge in November ruled in favor of four drug manufacturers in a case brought by several large counties.

In December, a New York jury found drug company Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA) responsible for causing public disturbance in the state, although the amount Teva will have to pay will be determined in a trial later in 2022.

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Reporting by Grant Segall in Cleveland and Dietrich Knauth in New York; edited by Bill Berkrot

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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