In a landmark judgment, a federal judge has ordered CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens to pay more than $650 million to two Ohio counties for their contribution to the opioid epidemic.
Lake County will receive $306 million, and Trumbull County will receive $444 million. The counties will receive the funds in payments made over 15 years. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster ordered the companies to pay $87 million to cover the first two years.
In the ruling, Polster said the pharmacies dispensed painkillers “without effective controls and procedures.” Since there were no measures to prevent the pills from being abused or resold, the companies bear some responsibility for the epidemic the two counties face.
In addition to the monetary award, the pharmacies will be required to train employees on how to dispense controlled substances, establish a hotline where personnel and patients can report the resale of painkillers, and appoint a controlled-substance compliance officer.
Walmart and Walgreen’s representatives issued statements saying they would appeal the ruling. Walmart said the trial was filled with “legal and factual mistakes,” while Walgreen noted the facts and law do not support the verdict. CVS did not return a request for comment made by CBS News.
Meanwhile, local leaders from both counties praised the ruling and said the money would be spent on the ongoing opioid crisis.
“I am grateful to the Court for recognizing the Opioid epidemic as a public health crisis. This decision holds Big Pharma accountable for the great harm and lives lost due to the overselling of Opioids,” said Lake County Commissioner John Plecnik in a statement. “We hope the legal precedent that Lake and Trumbull Counties have won together will set the stage for the rest of the nation and help end the Opioid epidemic.”
Rite Aid and Giant Eagle settled their lawsuits with the counties before the trial began. The settlements have not been made public.
The opioid epidemic has killed half a million people since 1999.