CLEVELAND鈥擜 lawyer for two Ohio counties told a federal jury on Monday at the start of a closely watched opioid trial that oversight failures by four large pharmacy operators including CVS Health Corp and Walmart Inc. helped fuel the deadly U.S. health crisis.
Mark Lanier told a federal jury in Cleveland hearing on the first trial the pharmacy chains have faced in nationwide litigation over the epidemic, that the companies bore responsibility for drug abuse in the counties of Lake and Trumbull.
other defendant pharmacy chains are run by Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Giant Eagle Inc.
counties contend they failed to ensure prescriptions were valid, causing an oversupply of pills, overdoses, and deaths.
“y’re known as the last line of defense,” Lanier said in his opening statement. “se are the people who are putting the pills on the streets. y have to provide effective controls.”
Opening statements are expected to continue on Monday and into Tuesday. companies deny wrongdoing, saying criminals were more likely to obtain opioids illegally from other sources, including pill mills, crooked doctors, and drug traffickers.
More than 3,300 cases have been brought largely by state and local governments seeking to hold the companies responsible for an opioid abuse epidemic that U.S. government data shows led to nearly 500,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2019.
pharmacy operators have never faced trial before in the litigation.
Should jurors find the companies created a public nuisance, U.S. District Judge Dan Polster will determine how much they must pay to abate, or address, the health crisis in the communities. He has urged the parties to settle.
trial comes after the three largest U.S. distributors that supply pharmacies鈥擬cKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp鈥攁nd the drugmaker Johnson & Johnson in July proposed paying up to $26 billion to settle cases against them.
By Grant Segall
Pezou : Pharmacy Chains Go on Trial in 1st Case Over US Opioid Epidemic