We recently discussed a major series of lawsuit claims brought by cities, counties, and Native American tribes across the country against pharmacy chain stores for their role in fueling the opioid crisis. According to that claim, these retail stores failed to follow guidelines which required them to report suspicious orders to the Drug Enforcement Agency, helping to fuel a nationwide public health crisis. Now we’re covering different litigation, also seeking to apportion blame for the opioid epidemic. This time, retail pharmacy chains are in the role of the plaintiff, and they are targeting doctors. These claims join an already incredibly complex cohort of opioid-related claims which will be decided in Ohio.
CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreen Co., Walmart, and others have taken issue with the fact that doctors have not been the target of legal action from Summit and Cuyahoga counties (two counties located in northeastern Ohio, where the opioid epidemic has hit particularly hard, resulting in a startlingly high per capita rate of overdoses). “In a misguided hunt for deep pockets, without regard to actual fault or liability, plaintiff has elected not to sue any of these other parties,” stated an attorney representing the drug stores. The drug stores have not named any individual physicians in their complaint; defendants are listed as “John and Jane Does 1-500.” The stores stated that they would name the identities of the physicians who came to light during the ongoing legal proceedings.
The first target of opioid litigation has been the drug manufacturers themselves. Last year, An Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries to pay $572 million to deal with the financial impact the opioid crisis has had in the state. Following that verdict, Texas filed suit against Johnson & Johnson for fraud in relation to how it marketed painkillers. A settlement was reached with Summit and Cuyahoga counties last fall after the counties brought claims against a variety of opioid manufacturers. The counties claimed that these manufacturers did nothing while it became apparent that mass volumes of opioids were being diverted to the black market.
According to the lawsuit targeting the doctors, pharmacy stores point to the fact that the counties did not sue independent drugstores, pill mills, Internet pharmacies, clinics and other practitioners, though these sources provided more than 40% of the opioids dispensed in Cuyahoga County and more than 60% of the opioids dispensed in Summit County. The stores also took issue with the way that the counties presented evidence of suspicious volume of prescriptions; rather than identifying individual prescriptions which were wrongly filled, the case relied on statistical modeling and government data that they said reveals that millions of doses of narcotics were illegally diverted to the black market while the drug industry did little to stop the flow.
The lead attorneys representing municipalities suing the drug industry said in a statement acknowledged that the root cause of the opioid epidemic is incredibly complex, and blame cannot be assigned to just one group. But, they said, “The origins of the opioid crisis and the fuel that spread the epidemic can be traced back to the behavior and practices of corporations in the drug supply chain. Without widespread wrongdoing by the opioid industry—including pharmacies—we would not be in the place we are today.”
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Have you or a loved one been a victim of the current opioid epidemic that has been sweeping the country? Call Gilman & Bedigian today at 1-800-529-6162 to learn what you can do to begin recovering from your losses.
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