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CVS, Walgreens and Walmart held liable for opioid epidemic in civil case

This is the first time pharmacy companies go to trial for the opioid epidemic

Photo of CVS, Walmart and Walgreens locations.
In this undated combination of photos shown are CVS, Walmart and Walgreens locations. The retail pharmacy chains recklessly distributed massive amounts of pain pills in two Ohio counties, a federal jury said Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021 in a verdict that could set the tone for U.S. city and county governments that want to hold pharmacies accountable for their roles in the opioid crisis.
Associated Press

On Tuesday, a federal jury found that pharmacy chains CVS Health Corp, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Walmart Inc. helped fuel the opioid epidemic in two Ohio counties, per Reuters.

  • This is the first trial companies will face over the drug crisis in the U.S.

Lake and Trumbull counties held the three chains responsible for dispensing pills that causes hundreds of overdose deaths, costing the counties around $1 billion, per CNBC News.

  • The U.S. District Judge Dan Polster will decide how much CVS, Walgreens and Walmart owe the two counties. A trial will be held to answer that question in April or May, per Reuters.

This opioid epidemic has killed more than half a million Americans in the last two decades, with numbers only going up each year, according to The Commonwealth Fund.

Per the report, the companies said they would appeal the verdict, as it didn’t consider facts and that the public nuisance law was misapplied.

  • “We will appeal this flawed verdict, which is a reflection of a trial that was engineered to favor the plaintiffs’ attorneys and was riddled with remarkable legal and factual mistakes,” Walmart said.
  • “As plaintiffs’ own experts testified, many factors have contributed to the opioid abuse issue, and solving this problem will require involvement from all stakeholders in our health care system and all members of our community,” CVS spokesperson Mike DeAngelis said in a statement.

The trial was a result of consolidating about 3,000 federal opioid lawsuits, per CNBC News.

  • Other cases are continuing in state courts.
  • No pharmacy has reached a nationwide settlement.

The jury’s decision had little effect on stocks for CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, per CNBC. CVS and Walgreens shares are up by 36% and 19% this year, respectively.