CVS, Rite Aid, Walmart severed from main opioid trial

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Judge grants order in effort to simplify the case

rite aidCLEVELAND — The federal  judge overseeing the landmark opioid suit Thursday severed CVS Health entities, Rite Aid and Walmart from the main bellwether trial scheduled for October.

Judge Dan Aaron Polster of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio granted the order to simplify the trial and make it more manageable. “Having fewer defendants in the first bellwether trial will allow plaintiffs to provide a more coherent presentation of the specific issues involved in the opioid crisis,” he wrote. He did not set a trial date for the severed defendants, which also include Anda Inc., Discount Drug Mart, HBC Service Co., H.D. Smith LLC, and Prescription Supply Inc.

At the outset of 2018, opioid lawsuits were being filed so frequently that a judicial panel grouped all the federal cases under the stewardship of Polster.  As of late January of this year, there were 1,548 cases, brought on behalf of millions of people.

Defendants in the case included pharmacy chains, which have come under scrutiny following the release of data by the federal government detailing the spread of the opioid epidemic. Last month, thousands of documents from companies across the pharmaceutical supply chain were filed in the case. Ranging from emails to shipping reports, the documents reveal the years-long spread of billions of pills around the country. Defendants in the suit also include drugmakers and distributors.

A CVS Health spokesman said after the data release,  “The plaintiffs’ allegations about CVS in this matter have no merit, and we are aggressively defending against them. We maintain stringent policies, procedures and tools to help ensure that our pharmacists properly exercise their professional responsibility to evaluate controlled substance prescriptions before filling them. Opioid medications are only a small percentage of the overall prescriptions our pharmacies dispensed.”

“Keep in mind that doctors have the primary responsibility to make sure the opioid prescriptions they write are for a legitimate purpose,” he added.








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