A federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio, has determined that CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart must pay $650M to two of the state's counties for their role in the opioid crisis. The ruling comes just a week after a San Franciscan judge found that Walgreens could be held partially responsible for the public health disaster that has killed 500k Americans since 1999.
The damages will be used by Lake and Trumbull counties to counter the effects of ongoing opioid crises among their populations, with Lake set to receive $306M over 15 years and Trumbull $344M over the same period.
Attorneys have estimated the full financial cost of damage done by opioid abuse in the counties at $3.3B, laying blame at the door of the companies who, they argue, dispensed pain medication irresponsibly and without proper oversight.
Around 80M painkillers were prescribed in Trumbull County between 2012 and 2016 - the equivalent of 400 for every resident.
Along with being forced to pay monetary damages, the retailers must meet further requirements declared by the ruling, such as training personnel on how to dispense controlled substances and appointing a compliance officer to review the prescription validation processes.
US District Judge Dan Polster said in his ruling that the companies had "squandered the opportunity to present a meaningful plan to abate the nuisance" caused by their role in the crisis.
Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by Daily Mail. These retailers had policies to stem the flow of prescription medication - it was common practice for pharmacists to voice concerns and notify authorities about suspicious orders. But ultimately the pharmacies didn't decide whether people needed the prescriptions, they were simply compelled to fulfill them. The companies aren't responsible for the opioid problems and have only been sued because the counties were in search of deep pockets and a scapegoat.
Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by The Washington Post. Retailers profited from neglectfully oversupplying blue-collar communities in Ohio with highly addictive pills - this is a victory for justice. This order may be a tide-turning case for thousands of other communities seeking to hold big pharmacies accountable for the public health disaster that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.