A trial has begun in federal court in Cleveland, where a judge will decide the amount of penalty the two Ohio counties will get from CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies over the companies' alleged role in the opioid crisis.
In November's trial of opioids, a jury discovered that pharmacy chains are responsible for the massive amount of pain pills distributed in Lake and Trumbull counties. It is the first case in the U.S. where the pharmacies are held responsible for the opioid epidemic.
The plaintiff's attorneys said that the pharmacies need to pay $1 billion each to both the counties for the damage caused due to the surge of pills, which eventually resulted in hundreds of overdose deaths.
From 2012 to 2016, 61 million pills were distributed in Lake County, which accounted for 265 pills for each resident. On the other hand, Trumbull County received 80 million prescription painkillers accounting for 400 for every county resident.
As per the estimates provided by an epidemiologist from Columbia University, in 2019, Lake County and Trumbull County reported that 6,000 and 7,600 people, respectively, suffered from opioid use disorder and addiction. The epidemiologist even testified that thousands of children from the two counties suffered from learning problems, mental illness and other issues, including PTSD as their parents used illicit opioids. The attorneys representing the pharmacies questioned the estimates provided by the epidemiologist.
The counties are expected to argue by presenting testimonies from doctors to elaborate on the damage suffered by the communities because of the opioid crisis, which impacted child welfare, other county agencies and an abatement plan for the counties.
Since 2015, drug overdose deaths have increased in the two counties because of synthetic opioids like fentanyl. The drug problems began after the users became addicted to prescription opioids initially. Even the children of the parents who use opioids are vulnerable to addiction.
The federal juries across the U.S. have resolved many opioid lawsuits in recent years by providing relevant verdicts and settlements. A total settlement amount of over $40 billion has been agreed upon by the drug makers, distributors and pharmacies until now.
According to the data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the country reported nearly 500,000 deaths from 2000 to 2019 due to legal and illegal opioids.