Trumbull County pushes on with opioid suit against pharmacies
A legal battle continues between Trumbull County and major U.S. pharmacies over the opioid epidemic despite a tentative settlement with drug makers.
The proposed $26 billion agreement announced last month by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to settle claims against three opioid distributors and one manufacturer, does not include a lawsuit filed by Ohio’s Trumbull and Lake counties against major pharmacy chains including Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid, and Giant Eagle.
The lawsuit alleges that the way pharmacies dispensed pain pills contributed to the opioid crisis and constituted a public nuisance in their communities.
The counties claim that between 2000 and 2014, the pharmacies dispensed 68-million doses of opioids in Trumbull County. With a population of 209,000, attorneys say that is the equivalent of 320 pills for every resident during the period.
Attorneys for the counties recently filed a motion that would prohibit the pharmacies from referring to prescription opioids as “legal” drugs or distinguishing them from “illegal” drugs during the upcoming trial which is scheduled to begin in federal court on October 4.
The motion states such “legal” and “illegal” characterizations would be misleading in the current case.
“Permitting Defendants to characterize prescription opioids as "legal" drugs, or to distinguish prescription opioids from "illegal" drugs, therefore, obscures the fact that prescription opioids may be legal or illegal, depending upon the circumstances. As a result, jurors could be misled that, because prescription opioids are FDA-approved, prescription opioids are always legal and that Defendants cannot be held liable based on the distribution or dispensing of those drugs,” according to the motion.
Walmart attorneys have argued that it is difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between prescriptions being used for legitimate and illegitimate purposes since it may depend upon the “secret and subjective” intentions of a customer and a prescriber.
A final pretrial in the case is scheduled on September 29 in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.