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Pharmacy chains sue hundreds of Ohio doctors in opioid lawsuits


Major pharmacy chains are seeking recourse from Ohio doctors saying they also bear responsibility for the opioid epidemic.

The major pharmacy chains being sued by municipalities for their roles in the opioid epidemic are passing some of that blame to Ohio doctors, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Walgreen Co., Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid and other pharmacies are suing doctors, which the chains claim bear some of the responsibility for the opioid crisis, though the multiple, nearly identical lawsuits do not name any of these doctors and only list up to 500 “John Does” – a common legal tactic used when the identities of possible defendants are expected to come out in trial, according to the Post report.

The cause of the new suits seems to lie in the absence of doctor defendants in cases brought against the pharmacies by Cuyahoga and Summit counties as part of the 2,500 cities, counties, Native American tribes and other groups who have filed suits. These cases have been consolidated into “multidistrict litigation,” which is scheduled to go to trial in October in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland.

In an emailed statement to the Post, Walgreen Co. spokesman Phil Caruso said the new suits are aimed at striking back at some of the municipalities’ claims.

“This complaint is required to respond to the unsubstantiated allegations by plaintiffs that pharmacists should not have filled prescriptions, written by doctors, for FDA-approved opioid medications,” Caruso told the Post. “We strongly believe that the overwhelming majority of prescriptions dispensed were properly prescribed by doctors to meet the legitimate needs of their patients.”

Last October, drug manufacturers and distributors Teva, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson reached a $260 million settlement resolving claims from Cuyahoga and Summit counties narrowly avoiding a trial, according to a news release from one of the counties’ attorneys.

There was also a $63 million deal reached with Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Endo, and Allergan which will give funds to nonprofit organizations with opioid-related programs and addiction services, the release says.

The whale in the suits, OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma, narrowly avoided standing trial for their part in the epidemic by filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
© National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health