Five pharmacy chains in two Ohio counties have been hit with lawsuits for flooding tiny towns with tens of millions of prescription painkillers and taking minimal steps, if any, to stop the excessive sales.  

Lake and Trumbull counties in northeast Ohio have filed on Wednesday accusing CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Giant Eagle of fueling the national drug crisis that has killed more than 430,000 people since 2000. 

The complaints were filed in the US District Court in Cleveland and are slated for trial in May 2021 before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster.

The chains’ 31 pharmacies sold nearly 64million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills – painkillers most frequently diverted and abused – in Lake County between 2006 and 2014, according to federal data.

With a population of 220,000, that is roughly 290 pills for every Lake County resident during that period. 

Lake and Trumbull counties in Ohio filed lawsuits against pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Giant Eagle on Wednesday. File image of a CVS in Ohio above

Lake and Trumbull counties in Ohio filed lawsuits against pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart and Giant Eagle on Wednesday. File image of a CVS in Ohio above

The suit accuses a Rite Aid in Painesville, Ohio, which has a population of 19,524, of selling more than 4.2million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone from 2006 through 2014 when the retailer offered bonuses to stores with the highest productivity. A photo of a Rite Aid in Plainesville above

The suit accuses a Rite Aid in Painesville, Ohio, which has a population of 19,524, of selling more than 4.2million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone from 2006 through 2014 when the retailer offered bonuses to stores with the highest productivity. A photo of a Rite Aid in Plainesville above 

During that same time period Trumbull County’s 28 pharmacies sold more than 68million of those pills to the population of 209,837; that divides up to 322 pills for every resident. 

Three Walmart pharmacies in Lake County sold 6.4million opioid pills from 2006 through 2014, but did not flag any suspicious orders from 2007 and 2014. 

The suit also accuses a Rite Aid in Painesville, Ohio, which has a population of 19,524, of selling more than 4.2million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone from 2006 through 2014 when the retailer offered bonuses to stores with the highest productivity. 

The lawsuits allege that the pharmacies were not only aware of the excessive amount of opioids they were selling, but failed to report suspiciously large orders and sales.  

‘They were keenly aware of the oversupply of prescription opioids through the extensive data and information they developed and maintained as both distributors and retail sellers of opioids,’ the lawsuits claim. 

The companies ‘facilitated the supply of far more opioids that could have been justified to serve a legitimate market,’ the lawsuits said. 

The complaint alleges CVS worked with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to offer seminars to pharmacists on pain management so they’d be able to reassure patients and doctors on the safety of opioids.

CVS also partnered with Endo Pharmaceuticals to send letters to patients encouraging them to maintain prescriptions from opioid Opana, as per the

The complaints were filed in the US District Court in Cleveland and are slated for trial in May 2021. A Giant Eagle in Ohio pictured above

The complaints were filed in the US District Court in Cleveland and are slated for trial in May 2021. A Giant Eagle in Ohio pictured above

Walgreens and Walmart are accused of circumventing federal oversight policies requiring them to report large orders to the FDA in the lawsuits. A view of a Walmart in Ohio above

Walgreens and Walmart are accused of circumventing federal oversight policies requiring them to report large orders to the FDA in the lawsuits. A view of a Walmart in Ohio above

In 2017 the Food and Drug Administration ordered the extended-release formulation of Opana to be removed from the market due to extensive abuse. 

Walgreens and medication online Walmart are accused of circumventing federal oversight policies requiring them to report large orders to the FDA.

CVS also lacked a companywide policy for reporting suspicious orders until prior to 2010. However CVS didn’t report any orders as suspicious until February 2012, when the opioid crisis was already on the rise. Through November 2013, CVS has only reported seven suspicious orders across the country and none of those were in Ohio. 

The counties are suing the chains on two fronts – as distributors to their own pharmacies, and as dispensers who allegedly intentionally fueled the public demand for opioids. 

CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis in a statement said that opioids are made and marketed by drug manufacturers, not pharmacists, and the lawsuits’ use of ‘decades old documents without context is misleading and doesn’t change the facts.’

Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso referred to an earlier statement from the company claiming it never manufactured or marketed opioids and only delivered prescription painkillers to its retail locations

Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso referred to an earlier statement from the company claiming it never manufactured or marketed opioids and only delivered prescription painkillers to its retail locations

‘Pharmacists dispense opioid prescriptions written by a licensed physician for a legitimate medical need,’ DeAngelis said.

Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso referred to an earlier statement from the company claiming it never manufactured or marketed opioids and only delivered prescription painkillers to its retail locations. 

The other retailers have not responded to the lawsuit.  

Pharmacists are obliged to fill prescriptions from physicians as they are written, the company said.

Ohio officials have been adamant in their fight against the opioid crisis and legal battle with manufacturers, and now distributors. These are the first lawsuits to target retail chains as distributors and dispensers of prescription painkillers.

Ohio’s much larger Cuyahoga and Summit counties settled a lawsuit against drug manufacturers and distributors ahead of trial last November for $260million.  

A trial for claims by Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, and Summit County, which includes Akron, against retail chains is scheduled for November. Pharmacies are not part of that complaint after an appeals court sided with the companies, saying Polster improperly included them.    

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