A federal judge in Ohio ordered the companies owning CVS, Walgreens and Walmart pharmacies to pay $650 million over 15 years to two Ohio counties after a jury found them liable for contributing to the opioid epidemic. The verdict was handed down last November after a six-week trial. It was the first decision reached among lawsuits targeting pharmacy chains for their alleged role in the opioid crisis, the Wall Street Journal reports. U.S. Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland issued his order on Wednesday after a separate nonjury trial was held to determine the appropriate amount the companies must pay.
Polster ruled that the defendants were responsible for a portion of plans created for Lake and Trumbull counties, plaintiffs in the case, to address problems linked to the opioid epidemic. He ordered the companies to immediately pay two year’s worth of those payments into a fund --$86.7 million of the total $650.6 million. The companies plan to appeal. “We strongly disagree with the Court’s decision regarding the counties’ abatement plan, as well as last fall’s underlying verdict,” said Michael DeAngelis of CVS Health Corp. “Pharmacists fill legal prescriptions written by DEA-licensed doctors who prescribe legal, FDA-approved substances to treat actual patients in need.”