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A federal jury said Tuesday in a ruling that three retail pharmacy chains distributed massive amounts of pain pills in two Ohio counties could set the tone for U.S. city and county governments for their roles in the opioid crisis. Wants to hold pharmacies accountable.

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His attorney said the counties blamed the pharmacies operated by CVS, Walgreens and Walmart for not stopping the flood of pills, which caused hundreds of deaths and cost the two counties about $1 billion each.

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It was the first time pharmacy companies had completed a trial to defend themselves in the drug crisis that has killed half a million Americans over the past two decades. How much the pharmacies will have to pay in damages will be decided by a federal judge in the spring.

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Lake and Trumbull were able to convince the county jury that pharmacies played a big part in causing a public nuisance in the way they dispense pain medication in their communities.

Lawyers for the three pharmacy chains said their pharmacists have policies in place to stop the flow of pills when they have a concern and will notify authorities about suspicious orders from doctors.

He also said that it was the doctors who controlled how many pills were being prescribed for legitimate medical needs.

Two other series – Rite Aid and Giant Eagle – Cases already settled With two Ohio counties.

Attorney Mark Lanier, representing the counties in the trial, said during the trial that pharmacies were trying to blame everyone but themselves.

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The opioid crisis has overwhelmed the courts, social service agencies and law enforcement in Ohio’s blue-collar corner east of Cleveland, leaving behind dysfunctional families and children born to addicted mothers, Lanier told jurors. .

Between 2012 and 2016 nearly 80 million prescription painkillers were distributed in Trumbull County alone – the equivalent of 400 for each resident.

In Lake County, approximately 61 million pills were distributed during that period.

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The increase in physicians prescribing painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone came at a time when medical groups began to recognize that patients have a right to seek pain treatment, Kaspar Stoffelmeier, an attorney for Walgreens, said at the trial’s opening. .

The problem, he said, was that “pharmaceutical manufacturers tricked doctors into prescribing too many pills.”

Counties said pharmacies should be the last line of defense to prevent pills from getting into the wrong hands.

Lanier said he did not hire enough pharmacists and technicians or train them to prevent this from happening and failed to implement systems that could flag suspicious orders.

The trial before US District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland was part of a broader constellation of federal opioid lawsuits — about 3,000 in total — that have been consolidated under the judge’s supervision. Other cases are proceeding in state courts.

It was one of five trials in the US so far this year to test claims made by governments on the toll of prescription painkillers against parts of the pharmaceutical industry.

Trial against drug manufacturers and distribution companies in New York Washington State Running now. The claims lawsuit against distribution companies in West Virginia is over, but the judge has yet to deliver a ruling.

Earlier in November, a California judge ruled in favor of top drugmakers in a lawsuit with three counties and the city of Oakland. The judge said the governments have not proved that drug companies used deceptive marketing to increase unnecessary opioid prescriptions and create public nuisance.

Also in November, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court reversed the 2019 verdict for $465 million in a lawsuit brought by the state against drugmaker Johnson & Johnson.

Other lawsuits have resulted in larger settlements or proposed settlements before trials are completed.