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Investing.com – Shares of CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) and Walmart (NYSE:WMT) fell 0.6% and 0.4% respectively in Wednesday’s premarket trading a day after a federal jury in Cleveland, Ohio, ruled that their pharmacies were complicit in the opioid epidemic.
Walgreens (NASDAQ:WBA) was also found guilty in the case. The stock closed 0.3% lower in after-hours trading.
Attorneys for Lake and Trumbull counties argued the chains didn’t do enough to stop pain pills from flooding the local markets or to stop false prescriptions from being filled. The counties argued the pharmacy companies’ lack of effort in containing the crisis created public nuisance that cost each about $1 billion in law-enforcement, social-services and court expenses. Public-nuisance laws vary by state, which makes it harder to view the verdict as any kind of precedent for other, similar cases in process elsewhere..
The companies pleaded innocence saying they tried to stop the illegal diversion of pills and that they complied with all procedures mandated by the regulators.
Opioids have taken an increasing toll on U.S. lives in an epidemic that spans over 20 years.
Treatments initially intended for alleviating the suffering of cancer patients were gradually dispensed to patients with a much broader range of ailments. The prescriptions became more frequent, the dosage higher and illegal usage and supply blossomed.
According to federal figures, the country lost nearly half a million people to overdoses of prescription and illegal opioids between 1999 and 2019. The incidence of overdoses has risen during the pandemic, with fentanyl and other opioids accounting for more than 70% of the 100,000 deaths in the 12 months through April.
Cases against pharmacies, distributors of medicines and drugs and pharmaceutical companies are ongoing in various courts in the country.
Four months ago, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and distributors including McKesson (NYSE:MCK), Cardinal Health (NYSE:CAH) and AmerisourceBergen (NYSE:ABC) agreed to pay $26 billion over 18 years in a settlement with around 40 states in cases that accused them of fuelling the opioid crisis.