Walmart, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies must pay more than $650 million over 15 years to two Ohio counties because of the harm the companies caused with their opioid distribution methods, a federal judge in Cleveland ruled this week.
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, in his landmark ruling, concluded that the pharmacies must “abate the opioid nuisance they caused in Lake County and Trumbull County, Ohio.”
Polster ordered the pharmacies to immediately pay nearly $87 million for the first two years of the abatement plan.
Walmart, in a statement, said it will appeal the judge’s ruling.
“Plaintiffs’ attorneys sued Walmart in search of deep pockets, and this judgment follows a trial that was engineered to favor the plaintiffs’ attorney and was riddled with remarkable legal and factual mistakes,” the retailer said. “Instead of addressing the real causes of the opioid crisis, like pill mill doctors, illegal drugs and regulators asleep at the switch, plaintiffs’ lawyers 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.”
The pharmacies named in the ruling are also ordered to take a variety of actions to ensure they comply with the Controlled Substances Act to avoid “further improper dispensing conduct,” Polster said.
The judge’s ruling, part of about 3,000 federal opioid lawsuits under his purview, follows a jury trial in November that sided with the Ohio counties.
Prescription painkiller use has been rampant across the country. In Ohio’s Trumbull County, though, about 80 million of the drugs were dispensed in Trumbull County between 2012 and 2016—enough for each resident to receive 400 pills, according to The Washington Post. During that time, 61 million pills were distributed in Lake County, the newspaper said.
"The news today means that we will soon have the long-awaited resources necessary to extend aid to properly address the harms caused by this devastating epidemic," Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda said in a statement provided to media outlets.