Big Pharmacy Chains Also Fed the Opioid Epidemic, Court Filing Says - The New York Times

Are some Pharma's Evil ?
(The Medical Quack)

The story about Opana


New details emerge in a lawsuit asserting that chains including CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens sold millions of pills in small towns but rarely flagged suspicious orders to authorities.

Opana (trade name) Oxymorphone extended-release is used to help relieve severe ongoing pain. It belongs to a class of drugs known as long-acting opioid (narcotic) analgesics. It works in the brain to change how your body feels and responds to pain.



Through years of lawsuits and rising public anger over the opioid epidemic, the big American pharmacy retailers have largely eluded scrutiny. But a new court filing Wednesday morning asserts that pharmacies including CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Giant Eagle as well as those operated by Walmart were as complicit in perpetuating the crisis as the manufacturers and distributors of the addictive drugs.

The retailers sold millions of pills in tiny communities, offered bonuses for high-volume pharmacists and even worked directly with drug manufacturers to promote opioids as safe and effective, according to the complaint filed in federal court in Cleveland by two Ohio counties.

Specifically, the complaint lays out evidence that:

CVS worked with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, to offer promotional seminars on pain management to its pharmacists so they could reassure patients and doctors about the safety of the drug.

In partnership with Endo Pharmaceuticals, CVS sent letters to patients encouraging them to maintain prescriptions of Opana, a potent opioid so prone to abuse that in 2017 the Food and Drug Administration ordered its extended-release formulation removed from the market.

From 2006 through 2014, the Rite Aid in Painesville, Ohio, a town with a population of 19,524, sold over 4.2 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone. The national retailer offered bonuses to stores with the highest productivity.

Walgreens’ contract with the drug distributor AmerisourceBergen specified that Walgreens be allowed to police its own orders, without oversight from the distributor. Similar conditions were struck by CVS with its distributor, Cardinal Health.

The companies could not immediately be reached for comment on the early-morning filing. In the past, they have maintained that they were merely filling doctors’ prescriptions of legal medications.

Federal law requires manufacturers, drug retailers and suppliers to report suspiciously high orders to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. But despite being repeatedly fined by the D.E.A. for failing to do so, the chains continued to sell outsize quantities of opioids, the complaint contends, only rarely sounding alarms, a charge also made against the drug distributors in numerous other lawsuits.

But relatively few cases against the retail pharmacy chains have advanced. Like most of the lawsuits in the sprawling national litigation, those cases are on hold, pending the outcome of the bellwethers. Judge Polster recently gave bellwether status to retail pharmacy cases brought by San Francisco and the Cherokee Nation. Those lawsuits will now proceed in the plaintiffs’ local federal courts.



The first case to advance against retailers, brought by Cuyahoga and Summit Counties in Ohio, is scheduled for November 2020. But those counties are only suing the chains in their capacity as distributors of opioids to their own drugstores.

If this is proven it provides a basis for a vast conspiracy again patients in the name of profit. CVS and Walgreen's will follow the likes of Purdue, which paid a multi-billion dollars setlement to the government and for personal injury cases.  It is an attorney's gold mine.

Federal law requires manufacturers, drug retailers and suppliers to report suspiciously high orders to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. But despite being repeatedly fined by the D.E.A. for failing to do so, the chains continued to sell outsize quantities of opioids, the complaint contends, only rarely sounding alarms, a charge also made against the drug distributors in numerous other lawsuits.

Walmart devised a workaround to that reporting requirement, the complaint says. In mid-2012, it fixed a hard limit on opioid quantities it would distribute to its stores, foreclosing the need for its pharmacists to report excessive orders. Yet Walmart simply allowed its stores to make up the difference by buying the remainder of their large opioid orders from other distributors.

Until now, the focus of thousands of lawsuits across the country related to the opioid health crisis has largely been on drug manufacturers and distributors. A handful of those cases have settled. Representative cases, called bellwethers, selected by Judge Dan A. Polster in Cleveland from thousands of similar federal lawsuits to test both sides’ arguments, are moving through early stages in Chicago and West Virginia.

Cases brought by New York State and two New York counties are awaiting a joint trial date; originally set to begin March 20, their trial was postponed because of the pandemic lockdown.