Walgreens Pharmacy in Springfield (archive image): "The law requires pharmacies to be conscientious when dispensing medication."
Photo: Shawn Thew / dpa
The pharmaceutical companies and wholesalers behind the controversial and addictive opioids such as "Oxycontin" from Purdue have been the focus of the US judiciary for years.
What is new is that pharmacies have now also been successfully held responsible before a US court - for the all too casual use of these painkillers, which have led to an opioid crisis in the US that has now resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.
In the landmark case in Cleveland, Ohio, three large pharmacy chains have now been found guilty of having contributed to the crisis by laxly distributing addictive drugs.
The federal court jury ruled Tuesday (local time) that US retailers Walmart, CVS and Walgreens did not adequately control pain reliever sales in the state of Ohio.
On average, hundreds of pills were given out for each resident
The companies announced their appointment.
They deny complicity in the opioid crisis and claim to have sold pills prescribed by licensed doctors.
For example, Walgreens spokesman Fraser Engerman criticized the pharmacy chain for "never producing or marketing opioids, nor did we supply them to the 'pill services' and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis."
Two counties in Ohio had sued.
They are demanding billions of dollars in compensation from corporations for the cost of fighting opioid addiction and overdosing.
They were able to convince the jury that the chains are a public nuisance for the way they hand out the pain medication.
“The law requires pharmacies to be conscientious when dispensing medication.
This case should be a wake up call that neglect will not be accepted, ”said Mark Lanier, a lawyer for Lake and Trumbull Counties.
In Trumbull County alone, around 80 million prescription pain relievers were dispensed between 2012 and 2016 - that's roughly 400 for each resident.
How much Walmart, CVS and Walgreens have to pay will be determined by a federal judge in the spring.
There are numerous similar US lawsuits against pharmacies as well as against manufacturers and wholesalers.
The decision in the proceedings is therefore now an important guide.
Opioids are partly synthetically produced drugs with, among other things, pain-relieving properties.
However, they also harbor an enormous risk of dependency and a high potential for abuse.
The opioid epidemic in the United States has resulted in nearly half a million deaths in the past two decades, according to the CDC.
apr / dpa / AP