The Opioid Saga Continues: America’s Big Pharmacies Are Under Court Scrutiny This Time

The big pharmacies in the U.S. are next in line for opioid crisis scrutiny as more and more states sue responsible parties.
By: | February 27, 2022

The opioid litigation saga continues, this time landing at the pharmacy’s doorsteps. CVS Health Corp, Walgreens Boot Alliance and Walmart were the latest to feel the heat. 

Two Ohio counties accused the pharmacies of fueling the drug epidemic in the state.  

After six days of deliberations back in November 2021, jurors found all three entities responsible. Actions by the pharmacy chains were considered a “public nuisance” that resulted in “an oversupply of addictive pain pills and the diversion of those opioids to the black market.” 

Following the ruling, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart said they would appeal the verdict. They argued the verdict ran “contrary to the facts and that it misapplied public nuisance law to hold them liable under a novel legal theory.” 

“We strongly disagree with the decision,” a CVS statement to NPR read. “Pharmacists fill legal prescriptions written by DEA-licensed doctors who prescribe legal, FDA-approved substances to treat actual patients in need.” 

But many are looking to point blame for the more than 500,000 overdose deaths logged since 1999.  

At least 3,300 opioid lawsuits have been filed nationally against drug makers, distributors and pharmacies, according to reports from Reuters.  

McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Johnson & Johnson are already on the hook for $26 billion. OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and its owner, the Sackler family, filed for bankruptcy. Still yet, other trials are underway for Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and AbbVie Inc. 

As for CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, a trial set for a later date will determine the price tag for their alleged role in the epidemic. 

Scorecard: America’s three biggest pharmacy chains have been found liable for the opioid crisis. Whether an appeals court will rule the same way is yet to be seen. 

Takeaway: The opioid epidemic isn’t over and done with, even with a pandemic taking center stage. The road to retribution will be long, and with Ohio’s ruling, other states are likely to follow suit against pharmacies. 

Autumn Demberger is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected].

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