Rebuking Reckless Pharmacies

A US jury held Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart liable for “recklessly” selling huge quantities of opioids in Ohio, the first verdict of its type holding pharmacies accountable in the opioid crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, NPR reports.
 
The attorney for 2 hard-hit counties compared the pharmacies’ dispensing to a gumball machine—flooding Trumbull county with ~80 million prescription painkillers—equivalent to 400 for every resident—and Lake County with ~61 million pills between 2012 and 2016, according to the AP.
 
Precedent-setting potential: Other local governments across the country will surely take note, after recent attempts by state courts to hold corporations like Johnson & Johnson accountable—based on the same “public nuisance” argument embraced by the Ohio jury—hit legal roadblocks, NPR notes.
 
The Quote: “For decades, pharmacy chains have watched as the pills flowing out of their doors cause harm and failed to take action as required by federal law,” the county attorneys said.

What’s next: A federal judge will decide on damages this spring; the 3 companies pledged to appeal.
 
Walmart said in a statement that the real culprits are “pill mill doctors, illegal drugs, and regulators asleep at the switch,” saying the Ohio attorneys “wrongly claimed pharmacists must second-guess doctors in a way the law never intended and many federal and state health regulators say interferes with the doctor-patient relationship.”

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