In a verdict Tuesday, a federal jury said that pharmacy chains CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart are responsible for the careless distribution of opioids in two Ohio counties, reports the AP. The counties allege the reckless amount of pills handed out to patients caused hundreds of overdose deaths and contributed to the rampant opioid crisis that has devastated countless families. Attorneys say the excessive number of pills and the subsequent deaths cost each county about $1 billion. This is the first time powerful pharmacy companies have been held accountable for their role in the crisis that has killed at least half a million Americans in the last 20 years. “The law requires pharmacies to be diligent in dealing drugs,” said Mark Lanier, an attorney for the counties. “This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted. The jury sounded a bell that should be heard through all pharmacies in America.”
Spokespeople for CVSHealth and Walgreens say they will be fighting the verdict, alleging that “many factors have contributed to the opioid abuse issue.” Kaspar Stoffelmayr, an attorney for Walgreens, claims the blame should be on “pharmaceutical manufacturers [that] tricked doctors into writing way too many pills.” The defense argued that pharmacies are also responsible as they are the last line of defense in preventing people from abusing the deadly drugs.