(New York) Walmart, Walgreens and CVS pharmacies were ordered Wednesday by a judge in Ohio, in the northern United States, to pay $650.6 million to two counties in that state for their role in the opioid crisis.
Posted at 6:17 p.m
“A federal judge has ordered (these three companies) to pay a total of $650.6 million to Lake and Trumbull, Ohio counties,” the law firm defending the two companies said in a statement from The Lanier Law counties company
This sum will make it possible “to finance awareness and prevention programs and to reimburse authorities and organizations for the costs incurred in dealing with the crisis,” he added.
Walmart announced its intention to appeal in a press release, condemning a lawsuit “riddled with legal and factual errors.”
The three retail giants in the United States that massively distributed painkillers in those two counties were found guilty in November.
Attorneys in two Ohio counties had managed to convince the jury that the massive presence of opiates was in fact a public nuisance and that pharmacies had complied by ignoring warning signs about suspicious prescriptions for years.
County officials wanted “simply to be compensated for the burden of a drug epidemic caused by the greed, negligence and lack of accountability of these pharmaceutical chains of companies,” their attorney, Mark Lanier, said in the statement.
Pharmacy chains believe that pharmacists merely fulfill legal prescriptions from physicians who prescribe substances approved by health authorities.
Some parties had reached agreements with Lake and Trumbull counties to end claims for monetary payments. This is the case with the pharmacy chains Rite Aid and Giant Eagle.
It was the first time that drug distributors, and not manufacturers, have been blamed for this health crisis, which has caused more than 500,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 20 years and has resulted in a multitude of procedures initiated by local authorities .
However, sentencing of opiate manufacturers under public harassment laws has suffered backlash in California and Oklahoma.
Last summer, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid and Walmart agreed to pay a total of $26 million to two counties in New York State.