Pharmacy operators CVS, Walmart, and Walgreens must pay a combined $650.6 million to two Ohio counties to address the damage done by the opioid epidemic, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, writes Reuters.
"The news today means that we will soon have the long-awaited resources necessary to extend aid to properly address the harms caused by this devastating epidemic," Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda said in a statement.
CVS, Walmart and Walgreens ordered to pay $650.6 million to Ohio counties in opioid case (Reuters)
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Excerpt from Reuters: The order by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland marks the first time pharmacy chains have been ordered to pay money in an opioid lawsuit. It comes after a jury last November concluded that the companies helped create a public nuisance in Lake and Trumbull counties by over-supplying addictive pain pills, many of which found their way onto the black market. The pharmacies, which have argued they cannot be liable for filling legal prescriptions from doctors, have said they would appeal that verdict. The U.S. opioid epidemic has caused more than 500,000 overdose deaths over two decades, according to government data. More than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed, mostly by local governments, accusing drug makers, distributors and pharmacy chains of fueling the crisis.
According to the New York Times, the decision is a companion piece to a November jury verdict that found the companies had continued to dispense mass quantities of prescription painkillers over the years while ignoring flagrant signs that the pills were being abused.
Mark Lanier, the Texas lawyer who led the plaintiffs’ trial team, said of the pharmacy chains: "These companies are rending the fabric of society apart. They should not only show remorse, they should show they need to rectify what they’ve done. And they won’t do it. So the judge is doing it."
CVS, Walgreens and Walmart Must Pay $650.5 Million in Ohio Opioids Case (New York Times)
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Excerpt from the New York Times: The ruling is the first by a federal judge that assigns a firm money figure against the pharmacy chains for their roles in the opioid crisis. Here, the judge, Dan A. Polster of United States District Court in northern Ohio, who has overseen more than 3,000 cases in the opioid litigation, ruled that the pharmacies bore responsibility for one-third of the amount that Ohio’s hard-hit Lake and Trumbull counties need to address the continuing damage wrought by the epidemic. Drug manufacturers and drug distributors, two other groups in the pharmaceutical chain that have been sued, also bear responsibility, he said. Fraser Engerman, a spokesman for Walgreens, described the judge’s analysis as flawed, and said the company would appeal. "We never manufactured or marketed opioids nor did we distribute them to the ‘pill mills’ and internet pharmacies that fueled this crisis," he said.
In another public health-related story, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is launching an overhaul of its structure and operations in an attempt to modernize the agency and rehabilitate its reputation following intense criticism of its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and, more recently, the growing monkeypox outbreak, reports Politico.
CDC director orders agency overhaul, admitting flawed Covid-19 response (Politico)
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Excerpt from Politico: On Wednesday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky shared a series of changes with CDC leadership and staff designed to "transform" the organization and its work culture by improving how the agency shares information, develops public health guidance and communicates with the American public. "For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations," Walensky said in a statement. "As a long-time admirer of this agency and a champion for public health, I want us all to do better." The CDC restructuring follows two reviews conducted in recent months, one by Health Resources and Services Administration official Jim Macrae into the CDC’s pandemic response and another by CDC Chief of Staff Sherri Berger into agency operations. The reviews concluded that the "traditional scientific and communication processes were not adequate to effectively respond to a crisis the size and scope of the COVID-19 pandemic," according to an agency statement.
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