US pharmacies ordered to pay $650.6 million for role in opioid crisis | Opioids crisis

US drugstore chains CVS, Walmart and Walgreens must pay a combined $650.6 million to two Ohio counties to address the damage caused by the opioid epidemic, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

The order from U.S. Magistrate Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland comes after a jury last November concluded that the companies helped create a public nuisance in Lake and Trumbull counties by overdistributing addictive painkillers, many of which found their way onto the black market. The companies have said they will appeal the verdict.

Polster held a separate trial without a jury earlier this year to determine how much the companies would have to pay.

“We are disappointed by this outcome,” a Walgreens spokesman, Fraser Engleman, said in a statement. “The facts and the law did not support the jury’s verdict last fall, and they do not support the court’s decision now.”

CVS and Walmart did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Polster said the sum must be paid over 15 years, with the amount for the first two years, or $86.7 million, to be paid into a fund immediately. The judge also ordered the companies to implement new procedures to combat the illegal diversion of opioid medications.

The U.S. opioid epidemic has caused more than 500,000 overdose deaths over two decades, according to government data. More than 3,300 opioid lawsuits have been filed nationally against drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy chains.

The lawsuit has resulted in several nationwide settlements, including a $26 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson and its three leading distributors, a $2.37 billion settlement with AbbVie Inc and a $4.25 billion settlement with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd .

The pharmacies have not yet reached a nationwide settlement.

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