A Cleveland jury found that the three largest pharmacy chains in the country have been overdistributing pain killers and, in doing so, played a large part in the opioid crisis currently rocking the state.
In a closely-watched verdict that can set the tone for more litigation to come, a jury found Walmart ( (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report), CVS ( (CVS) - Get CVS Health Corporation Report) and Walgreens ( (WBA) - Get Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc Report) failed to stop hundreds of overdoses and deaths that ended up costing two Ohio counties over $1 billion in law enforcement and healthcare costs.
Addiction to prescription pills and other drugs has been on the rise nationwide amid the pandemic.
New Centers for Disease Control data recently found that a record-high 97,990 Americans died of drug overdoses between March 2020 and April 2021 while opioids have been making up larger and larger percentages of that number each year.
As first reported by the Associated Press, a federal judge will determine how much the pharmacy chains owe the counties at a spring hearing.
Numbers named during the trial included 80,000 million pain killers, or 400 for every resident, distributed in Trumbull County between 2012 and 2016. In Lake County, 61 million pills were distributed during that time period.
While states like California and Oklahoma have recently dismissed similar lawsuits against opioid manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson ( (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) Report), the Ohio case is a major victory against pharmacies and could inspire other counties in the grips of their own opioid crises to take the matter to court under the same legal argument of "public nuisance."
"The jury sounded a bell that should be heard through all pharmacies in America," Mark Lanier, an attorney for the two counties, told the AP.
At close on Tuesday, Walmart ( (WMT) - Get Walmart Inc. Report) stock was up 0.71% to $145.81, CVS ( (CVS) - Get CVS Health Corporation Report) stock was up 0.70% to $93.64 and Walgreens ( (WBA) - Get Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc Report) stock was up 0.15% to $47.39.