By: April Carson
According to a federal judge's ruling last Wednesday, Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens must pay $650.6 million combined to two Ohio counties for their roles in the opioid crisis.
US District Judge Dan Aaron Polster ruled that over the next 15 years, Lake County will receive $306.2 million and Trumbull County will receive $344.4 million.
In November, the three firms were held liable for their part in the opioid crisis in both Lake and Trumbull Counties. In May, Polster presided over separate hearings to determine how much money should be paid out.
The lawsuit, filed in 2018 as part of the federal multi-district litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors, was created to address the many claims brought against these parties.
The counties claimed that the pharmacies "deprived patients of essential medications" by abusing their role as registered dispensers of controlled drugs and encouraging a black market for prescription painkillers, according to the complaint.
The judge in the case, Proster, wrote that the awarded compensation is intended "to address a tiny portion of a terrible and tenacious national tragedy."
The case is one of many that have been brought against drug companies and pharmacies in recent years as the country struggles to grapple with the opioid epidemic.
However, the Court should be wary of relying on these "magical solutions" because, even if it could wave a magic wand and remove any existing or future abundance of legal prescription opioid drugs, as well as prevent all future diversion of legal prescription opioids into the illicit market, this enchantment would do nothing to reduce the nuisance that exists in Lake and Trumbull Counties—that is, widespread OUD and opioid addiction.
The spokespeople for Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens all said that they will appeal the recent ruling.
Fraser Engerman, senior director of external relations for Walgreens, said in a statement that the company does not support the jury verdict from last fall. "We never manufactured or marketed opioids nor did we distribute them to the 'pill mills' and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis."
Walmart responded, stating that the plaintiffs "sued Walmart in search of deep pockets" and claimed the trial "was engineered to favor the plaintiffs' attorneys and was rife with remarkable legal and factual errors."
"Plaintiffs' attorneys wrongly claimed that pharmacists must second-guess doctors in a way the law never intended and many federal and state health regulators say interferes with the doctor-patient relationship," according to the statement. "Instead of addressing the true causes of the opioid epidemic, such as pill mill doctors, illegal narcotics, and authorities asleep at the switch, plaintiffs' lawyers have argued that pharmacists must second-guess physicians.
"We vehemently disagree with the Court's decision about the counties' abatement plan, as well as last fall's original verdict," said Mike DeAngelis, executive director of corporate communications for CVS Health. "Pharmacists fill prescriptions that are legal and written by doctors who prescribe substances that have been approved by the DEA to treat patients."
The ruling was praised by town leaders in Trumbull and Lake Counties, who stated that the compensation would be used to combat opioid addiction.
The county hopes Wednesday's decision "will signal the beginning of the long road to recovery for the people of Trumbull County," according to Mauro Cantalamessa, a commissioner from Trumbull County.
"This is a momentous day," said Lake County Commissioner Daniel P. Troy. "The judge has put the safety of our citizens first."
"The brave men and women on the frontlines of this Trumbull County have been Miriam working tirelessly for years to mitigate the damages of opioid abuse. Thanks to their efforts, and through our combined legal action, we know which strategies are most effective in curbing further destruction throughout our community," Cantalamessa said. "With today's news, we can finally see a light at the end of tunnel; The much needed resources required rebuild what has been lost will be made available soon."
The $306.2 million awarded to Lake County will be invest into., Commissioner John Plecnik said, in order to help tackle the impacts of the opioid crisis within their communities. "This is an important step in our fight to end this epidemic and help those who have been hurt by it," Plecnik said. "The funds we receive as a result of this settlement will allow us to provide additional resources to those who need it most."
In Cuyahoga and Summit counties, the money will be used create a fund that will be overseen by a committee made up of people who have experience with addiction, mental health, and/or social services. The committee will then make recommendations on how best to spend the money from the fund.
"The settlement is an important step forward in addressing the opioid epidemic, but it is only one part of the solution," said attorney Paul Geller, who represented Cuyahoga County in the case. "Cuyahoga County and Summit County will continue to work together to address this public health crisis."
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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