A federal jury in Ohio has found that Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS Health were responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic that has ravaged communities across the nation.
Lake and Trumbull counties in Ohio sued the pharmacy chains, claiming they did not do enough to stop the flow of opioids, which caused hundreds of overdose deaths and cost each of the two counties about $1 billion. Prosecutors said that an estimated 80 million prescription painkillers were dispensed in Trumbull County between 2012 and 2016, while 61 million pills were given out in Lake County during the same four-year period.
The decision marks the first time that a jury has delivered a verdict in a case against the national pharmacy chains.
"The law requires pharmacies to be diligent in dealing drugs. This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted," Mark Lanier, an attorney for the counties, said, according to CNBC. "The jury sounded a bell that should be heard through all pharmacies in America."
A trial judge will now decide how much the pharmacy must pay in damages.
The pharmacies said they disagreed with the jury's decision and plan to file an appeal.
"As we have said throughout this process, we never manufactured or marketed opioids nor did we distribute them to the 'pill mills' and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis," Walgreen spokesperson Fraser Engerman said in a statement. "The plaintiffs' attempt to resolve the opioid crisis with an unprecedented expansion of public nuisance law is misguided and unsustainable."