Walmart and pharmacy operators CVS and Target have been ordered to pay a combined $650.6 million in damages to two Ohio counties as part of a lawsuit alleging that the pharmacies are playing a knowing part in the ongoing and deadly opioid epidemic.
Cleveland-based U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polser handed down the ruling this week after a jury last November concluded the pharmacy chains were liable for oversupplying addictive pain pills in Lake and Trumbull counties of Ohio. Walmart and its competitors have vowed to appeal that verdict.
“Plaintiffs’ attorneys sued Walmart in search of deep pockets, and this judgment follows a trial that was engineered to favor the plaintiffs’ attorneys and was riddled with remarkable legal and factual mistakes. We will appeal,” Walmart said Wednesday (Aug. 17).
The retail giant 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 federal court order stipulated the sum must be paid over 15 years, starting at $86.7 million for the first two years paid immediately. The court also ordered Walmart and the pharmacy defendants to implement new procedures to combat the illegal diversion of opioid drugs.
The opioid crisis has spawned nationwide litigation in recent years resulting in a few settlements to date, including drugmaker Johnson & Johnson’s settlement with the state of New York for $263 million in June 2021. Also this month, North Carolina and other states settled with Endo International for $450 million to be paid over 10 years.
In February, Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health finalized a $26 billion settlement to resolve their liabilities in over 3,000 opioid crisis-related suits nationwide.