Nov 23 (Reuters) – A federal jury on Tuesday found that pharmacy chain operators CVS Health Corp (CVS.N), Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) and Walmart Inc (WMT.N) helped fuel an opioid epidemic in two Ohio counties, in the first trial the companies have faced over the U.S. drug crisis.
Jurors in Cleveland federal court concluded that actions by the pharmacy chains helped create a public nuisance that resulted in an oversupply of addictive pain pills and the diversion of those opioids to the black market.
The verdict was confirmed by lawyers for the plaintiffs. The jury only assessed liability. It is up to U.S. District Judge Dan Polster to decide how much the companies should owe to abate, or address, the public nuisance in Ohio’s Lake and Trumbull counties.
He has tentatively scheduled a trial on that question for May 9. The counties’ lawyers have said the costs are potentially $1 billion for each county.
The trial was the first that any pharmacies had faced over an epidemic that U.S. health officials say had by 2019 resulted in nearly 500,000 opioid overdose deaths over the course of two decades.
Over 100,000 people died from drug overdoses during the 12-month period ending April 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday said, a record high driven in large part by deaths from opioids like fentanyl.L1N2S81LI
CVS, other pharmacy chains found liable in their first trial over U.S. opioid epidemic | ReutersCVS, other pharmacy chains found liable in their first trial over U.S. opioid epidemic | Reuters