An executive of CVS Health Corporation, which owns nearly 10,000 CVS pharmacies throughout the nation, told a Cleveland, Ohio jury on Oct. 5 that there were no systemic problems in the CVS Pharmacy chain that allowed the opioid crisis to spread through the retail giant’s stores.
The federal opioid lawsuit, which targets CVS, Walmart Inc., Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and supermarket chain Giant Eagle, is being brought by two Ohio counties, Trumbull and Lake, which accuse the corporations of helping to create a U.S. public health crisis by way of the opioid epidemic, Bloomberg reports.
This lawsuit is the first of thousands of consolidated cases being brought by state and local governments against pharmacies. If found liable by juries, pharmacies could be on the hook for billions of dollars.
Pharmacies have countered that they have robust opioid monitoring systems to prevent abuse by illegitimate prescriptions. Despite these claims, Tom Davis, CVS Health’s VP of Pharmacy Professional Services, admitted in testimony that the CVS chain had fulfilled thousands of illicit prescriptions for half of a decade. Despite this, Davis maintained that there were no systemic flaws that would make CVS responsible for the opioid crisis.
The plaintiffs continue to accuse pharmacies of failing to monitor patient drug use and doctor prescribing habits. These factors, the lawsuit argues, make the defendants a liable party in intensifying the effects of the opioid epidemic and making it difficult to curtail abuses.
As multi-district litigation (MDL) begins to enter its final stages on the national scale against the manufacturers of opioids, these smaller litigations against minor players in the epidemic are being handled by more local governments.
With the proceeds of these lawsuits, state and municipal governments argue that they can begin to assist those who have been impacted by the opioid epidemic and begin to reimburse the government for the taxpayer funds used to handle the overdoses and deaths that occurred because of opioid addiction allegedly spurred on by these corporations.