Pharmacy chains face 1st federal opioid trial: 7 things to know

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Four pharmacy chains are appearing in a federal courtroom in Cleveland on Oct. 4, marking the first time such companies have testified about their role in the country's opioid crisis.

Seven things to know:

  1. Two Ohio counties — Lake and Trumbull — filed a lawsuit alleging that oversight failures from four of the country's largest pharmacy chains — CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Giant Eagle — contributed to the dramatic rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths in the community.

  2. The trial focuses on what transpired between 2006 and 2014. Court documents allege that during this period, more than 190 million prescription opioids were shipped to Lake and Trumbull counties.

  3. The counties allege the amount of pills that was shipped far exceeded what could have possibly been medically necessary. The pharmacy chains have denied wrongdoing, saying they were filling legitimate prescriptions.

    Giant Eagle said the DEA never issued an order suggesting its stores' opioid prescription filling was inappropriate. Walmart said its opioid dispensing "accounted for a tiny share" of the market in the Lake and Trumbull counties. CVS and Walgreens have also said they did not break any laws, according to The Washington Post.

  4. Rite Aid originally was included in the lawsuit, but the chain reached an agreement with the counties in August.

  5. If the pharmacy chains are found liable, they could have to pay billions of dollars to help governments mitigate the opioid epidemic.

  6. Although the trial involves just two counties, it's viewed as a bellwether test case, according to NPR. The pharmacy chains are facing more than 3,300 similar lawsuits filed by state and local governments.

  7. The trial begins as overdose deaths are still rising in Ohio and many other parts of the country. Overdose deaths in 2021 are set to exceed the toll from when the case was filed about three years ago, Frank Gallucci, the counties' lead attorney, told The Washington Post.

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