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A jury in Ohio has found CVS, Walgreens and Walmart responsible for fuelling the opioid crisis

A federal jury in the U.S. state of Ohio has found chain pharmacies CVS, Walgreens and Walmart responsible for playing a role in the opioid crisis. The Lake and Trumbull counties in Ohio found the companies created a ‘public nuisance’ in the way they dispensed painkillers. 

A further legal proceeding will be held in the coming months in front of a federal judge in order to determine the damages to be paid by the pharmacies. All three companies have confirmed they will appeal the verdict.  

The jury’s verdict comes amid ongoing separate trials in the states of New York and Washington against drugmakers and distribution companies respectively. Separately, a judge in California ruled in favour of drugmakers earlier this month in a similar case after finding governments failed to prove pharmaceutical companies used marketing to increase unnecessary opioid prescriptions. 

What is the opioid crisis? 

The crisis refers to the significant amount of misuse of and addiction to opioids (like prescription pain relievers, heroin and fentanyl), particularly within the U.S. 

According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2019 alone, almost 50,000 people in the U.S. died from opioid related overdoses. It was also found that almost 21 to 29% of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.

The crisis predominately began in the late 1990s. According to the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse, it was a result of “pharmaceutical companies [who] reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates”. However, opioids were found to be highly addictive. 

Attorney for both Ohio counties, Mark Lanier said on the jury’s decision, “the law requires pharmacies to be diligent in dealing drugs. This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted.”

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