Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP / Getty Images
A federal judge in Cleveland awarded $650.5 billion in damages Wednesday to two counties in Ohio who won a landmark lawsuit against national drugstore chains CVS, Walgreens y Walmartclaiming that the way they distributed painkillers to customers caused a opioid epidemic and serious damage to those communities.
District Judge Dan Polster said in the ruling that the money will be used to mitigate an ongoing opioid crisis in Lake and Trumbull counties, outside Cleveland. County attorneys had set the award at $1 billion for damages caused to each of the counties.
Lake County will receive $306 million over 15 years. Trumbull County will receive $444 million during the same period. Polster ordered the companies to pay nearly $87 million to cover the first two years.
About 80 million prescription opioid pain relievers were dispensed in Trumbull County alone between 2012 and 2016which is equivalent to 400 painkillers for each resident. In Lake County, some 61 million pills were distributed during this period.
Judge Polster’s decision follows a jury verdict last November that found drug companies had continued to distribute massive amounts of prescription painkillers over the years while ignoring signs of abuse of these opioids in Los Angeles counties. Lake and Trumbull.
It was then left to Judge Polster to decide how much the counties should receive from the three drug companies. CVS is based in Rhode Island, Walgreens in Illinois, and Walmart in Arkansas.
Manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs, two other drug chain groups that have been sued, also bear responsibility, the judge said in his decision.
The legal representatives of CVS and Walgreens have already announced that they will appeal the decision.
The money represents a third of the amount both counties need to deal with the consequences of drug addiction for their citizens, the judge said.
In United States, overdose deaths in 2021 exceeded 100,000 deaths, the highest figure in history, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Since the turn of the century, nearly 850,000 people have died in the country as a result of the abuse of opioids, including medications prescribed by doctors to treat pain.
According to the CDC, opioid overdose deaths have increased 6-fold since 1999.