Walmart, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies were ordered by a federal judge in Ohio, in the northern United States, to pay $650.6 million to two counties in that state, Lake and Trumbull, on Wednesday, the firm announced. attorneys who defended both counties, The Lanier Law Firm.
This sum will make it possible to “finance education and prevention programs and reimburse agencies and organizations for the costs incurred in managing the crisis”, he added. Walmart announced in a press release its intention to appeal, denouncing a lawsuit “riddled with legal and factual errors”.
The three retail giants in the United States, which had massively distributed painkillers in these two counties, were found guilty in November.
“A drug epidemic supported by corporate greed”
Lawyers in two counties in Ohio had managed to convince the jury that the massive presence of opiates was indeed a public nuisance and that pharmacies had participated in it by ignoring warning signs about suspicious prescriptions for years.
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County officials “simply wanted to be compensated for the burden of a drug epidemic sustained by corporate greed, negligence and lack of accountability by these pharmaceutical chains,” their attorney, Mark Lanier, said in the statement.
Pharmacy chains believe that pharmacists are simply fulfilling legal prescriptions written by doctors, who prescribe substances approved by health authorities. Some parties had reached agreements with Lake and Trumbull counties to end the lawsuits in exchange for financial payments. This is the case of the pharmacy chains Rite Aid and Giant Eagle.
Distributors found responsible for the first time
It was the first time that drug distributors, and not producers, were held responsible for this health crisis, which has caused more than 500,000 overdose deaths in 20 years in the United States, and which has given rise to a myriad of procedures launched by local authorities.
The conviction of opiate producers based on public nuisance laws has, however, suffered setbacks, in California and Oklahoma. Last summer CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and Walmart agreed to pay a total of $26 million to two counties in New York State.
Read also: Opioid crisis in the United States: the indecent ballet of pharma groups