October 4 (WNN) — A historic federal trial began Monday in Cleveland accusing major US pharmacy chains such as CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Giant Eagle of helping fuel the opioid crisis.
US District Court Judge Dan Polster began the proceedings by directing jurors to disregard accounts of the crisis seen on television or in other forms of popular culture, NPR reported.
The judge’s warnings introduced what was expected to be a “bell” trial. Lawyers representing victims of prescription opioids claim that pharmacies played a key role in fueling the crisis, disregarding their legal duty to block suspected orders of controlled substances such as prescription opioids.
Lake and Trumbull Counties in Ohio are suing four pharmacy chains, saying their failures sparked a wave of prescribed opioids that are overwhelming communities. The result, they claim, was a major crisis of addiction and unnecessary death.
Analysts say if pharmacy chains are found liable, they could be ordered to pay billions of dollars to help tackle the pandemic, in a precedent-setting decision on corporate responsibility.
“Defendants have contributed substantially to the opioid crisis by selling and distributing prescription opioids in quantities they know may be necessary for legitimate medical uses, while taking steps to report and prevent suspicious orders and sales. This has led to an increase in the oversupply of such drugs and to promote an illegal secondary market,” he claimed in the lawsuit filed last year.
Lawyers claimed that over-prescription of opioids resulted in more than 183,000 US overdose deaths between 1999 and 2015, as Lake and Turnbull counties were “described by the Centers for Disease Control as a ‘public health epidemic’.”
In the complaint, the counties allege that CVS worked with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to offer its pharmacist seminars on pain management to reassure patients and doctors about the safety of opioids.
CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Giant Eagle, however, reject the argument that they are to blame for the opioid crisis.
“When it comes to controlled substances, pharmacists take reasonable steps to avoid filling illegitimate prescriptions under the circumstances of each prescription, while still working to ensure that patients suffering genuine pain are prescribed by their doctors. are able to obtain the drugs,” Walgreens attorneys wrote in a court brief.