Internal documents published in the ongoing lawsuit between two Ohio counties and multiple pharmacies suggest that the employees of these pharmacies may have tried to alert their superiors of the suspicious opioid prescriptions coming through their stores. This opioid lawsuit could set a precedent for holding pharmacies accountable for their potential role in the opioid crisis, according to NPR.
Unlike previous opioid lawsuits that have targeted manufacturers and distributors, the lawsuit being brought by Lake and Trumbull counties is targeting pharmacies that dispensed highly-addictive pain killers throughout the opioid crisis.
The lawsuit claims that pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, Giant Eagle and Walmart were not verifying whether the prescriptions were justifiably prescribed.
This pattern of no-questions-asked opioid drug dispensing allegedly led to the unrestricted flow of opioids from these facilities without regard to the safety of patients. Internal documents recovered by the plaintiffs indicate that employees of these pharmacies were aware of these issues and brought them up to members of higher management.
One internal memo from Walgreens reads, “Walgreens is not verifying the legitimacy of suspicious orders, which could lead to the fulfillment of an illicit order.” Another complaint from a CVS employee states, “I may have been naïve to believe we were doing everything we could to reduce the growth of this tragic problem in the U.S.”
According to the plaintiffs and U.S. federal law under the federal Controlled Substances Act, all businesses involved with the manufacture and distribution of opioids, including pharmacy chains, are required to strictly monitor prescriptions and establish regimented safety programs. Plaintiff’s attorney Mark Lanier argued to the jury that pharmacies were “the last line of defense” in preventing the abuse of opioids.
The accused pharmacies have refuted the plaintiffs’ claims and argued that they had made and continue to make a good-faith effort to control opioid prescriptions.
Walgreens attorney Kaspar Stoffelmayr shifted the blame to online retailers stating, “People used to be able to order opioid medications online.”
CVS attorney Eric Delinsky argued that pharmacies were just fulfillment centers, saying that “Pharmacies don't control volume dispensed” and only doctors are responsible “because they're the ones who write prescriptions.”
Ultimately, the jury and judge will be responsible for determining whether or not pharmacies can be considered liable for allegedly becoming pill mills that fueled the opioid epidemic.