Will the large, named pharmacies on trial signal reckoning for West Virginia’s opioid crisis?

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Pharmacies from Walmart to Walgreens are facing a landmark trial as the prosecution has deemed them the 'gatekeepers' of the opioid crisis.

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

MARSHALL COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) — Lawyers are calling it a “bellwether” case as Northeast Ohio pharmacies have been taken to trial for their role in the opioid crisis. 

If convicted, it could set the pattern for pharmacies taken to court throughout the country, including West Virginia. 

The complaint claims devastation in Durham County, North Carolina, was created by opioid manufacturers, distributors, and chain pharmacies.  

The pharmacies, coined ‘gatekeepers,’ allegedly turned a blind-eye to the over-prescription of opioids. 

A plaintiff attorney in Marshall County has been following this lawsuit.  She says the prosecution points to the pharmacies’ duty to conduct suspicious order monitoring (AKA watch for red flags) such as unusual amounts. 

The defense will say the pharmacies did not make the drugs, they did not market the drugs and thus they wash their hands of the liability. 

But Marshall County attorney Diana Crutchfield says ‘not so fast.’

“There’s very specific federal laws that require these monitoring systems. And, just because you have them in place doesn’t mean you’re executing on them properly.

The number of pills that were manufactured and distributed are just shocking.

There was no way that a pharmacy chain would have believed the pills were used for strictly a medical purpose. 

Diana Crutchfield, 7NEWS Legal Expert

Walgreens recently settled and Crutchfield says outlets say the DEA took Walgreens to the “the woodshed.” 

This is a long battle and the connections run deep. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 80 percent of people who initiated heroin use in the past decade started with prescription painkillers.

So, who will be held accountable? We have yet to see. 

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