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Historic Verdict Finds Walmart, CVS, Walgreens Pharmacies Responsible for Fueling Opioid Addiction Epidemic

Jurors in closely watched trial agreed pharmacies failed to follow guidelines that would have stopped spread of opioid painkillers in hard-hit communities

Mark Lanier on courthouse steps after opioid verdict

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Retail pharmacies operated by Walmart, CVS and Walgreens have been hit with a historic jury verdict finding that they failed to follow guidelines that would have curtailed the staggering distribution of highly addictive opioid painkillers.

The verdict sends an important message to pharmacies facing similar litigation in venues across the United States. For the first time, jurors agreed that blame for the epidemic of opioid addiction cannot be leveled solely on pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors that produced and supplied highly addictive painkillers. Following six weeks of testimony, jurors found that pharmacies at the end of the supply chain failed to follow procedures that would have raised flags about questionable prescriptions and the sheer volume of pills flooding communities.

The epidemic has destroyed families and overwhelmed courts, health care systems and key social services, reportedly causing more than $1 billion in damages in Trumbull and Lake counties in northeast Ohio. Actual economic damages will be determined in the next phase of the trial.

The counties were represented by a legal team that included Mark LanierRachel Lanier, Mildred Conroy, Alex Abston and Michelle Carreras of The Lanier Law Firm, Peter Weinberger of Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP, Frank Gallucci of Plevin & Gallucci Co., and Maria Fleming of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC.

“This jury heard the evidence, and their message is crystal clear,” said Mr. Lanier. “These pharmacies simply did not follow guidelines that would have raised red flags and curtailed the living nightmare that these communities have had to endure.”

In Trumbull County, approximately 80 million prescription opioid painkillers were dispensed, which is the equivalent of 400 pills for each resident. In Lake County, approximately 61 million pills were distributed. The resulting addiction crisis contributed to higher rates of heroin and fentanyl abuse and a steep increase in overdose deaths. Across the country, more than 500,000 overdose deaths have been blamed on opioid abuse in the last two decades.

The cases are County of Lake v. Purdue Pharma LP et al., case number 1:18-op-45032, County of Trumbull v. Purdue Pharma LP et al., case number 1:18-op-45079, and In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation, case number 1:17-md-02804, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

J.D. Cargill
[email protected]