A hearing in Cleveland federal court will begin on Tuesday that will lead a judge to determine how much CVSHealth, Walgreens Co. and Walmart Corp. should pay two counties in northeastern Ohio to help reduce the continuing opioid crisis.
CLEVELAND – How much money should CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies pay in two Ohio counties to help reduce the effects of the opioid crisis?
That’s the question facing a Cleveland federal judge, who will begin hearing testimony Tuesday after a jury found the three giant pharmacy chains responsible last fall for carelessly distributing huge quantities of painkillers in Lake and Trumbull Counties. . It was the first time that pharmacies in the United States were held responsible for the opioid crisis.
Plaintiff’s attorneys said prior to trial that each county needs approximately $ 1 billion to repair damage caused by the flood of pills, which has resulted in hundreds of overdose deaths.
About 80 million prescription pain relievers were administered in Trumbull County between 2012 and 2016 – 400 for every county resident – while 61 million pills were dispensed in Lake County during that five-year period – 265 pills. for each resident.
In November, a jury in the courtroom of US District Judge Dan Polster sided with the counties and agreed that the way pharmacies dispensed painkillers played an outsized role in creating public nuisance.
Now, counties should present medical testimonies to discuss the damage those communities have suffered, the impact of the opioid crisis on the well-being of children and other county agencies, and a culling plan created for the counties.
“The jury rang a bell that should be heard in all pharmacies in America,” said Mark Lanier, the county’s chief attorney, following the November verdict.
In the United States, many lawsuits by governments over drug tolls have been resolved in recent years, most with agreements and some with judgments or verdicts in trials. So far, drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies have agreed deals totaling more than $ 40 billion, according to an Associated Press tally.
Trials are ongoing in the courts of West Virginia, Florida and California. A decision has not yet been issued after another trial last year in West Virginia.
According to a court filing on April 25, the culling plan created for Lake and Trumbull counties by Dr. Caleb Alexander of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “are reasonable and necessary to reduce the public annoyance found by the jury.”
The plan focuses on prevention, treatment, recovery and “measures designed to specifically address the needs of special populations who have been uniquely affected by the opioid epidemic,” the court filing said.
Attorneys for Walgreens and Walmart argued in a court filing that the counties’ $ 878 million culling plan should be limited to one year and not the five-year minimum the counties claim they need. One of the pharmacy chain experts estimated the actual cost at $ 346 million, while another expert said it was less than $ 35 million, the filing said.
Defense attorneys also argued that harm caused by other entities that contributed to the public opioid addiction disorder should be excluded from any amount awarded by Polster and that such costs should be limited to the pharmacies’ “appropriate share of the disturbance contribution”. .
The Rite-Aid pharmacy chain made an agreement with the counties in early October before the trial began. Giant Eagle, based in Pittsburgh, reached a settlement with the counties in late October after the trial began.
There were nearly 500,000 deaths from both legal and illegal opioids between 2000 and 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.