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Pharmacies argue that prescribers bear ultimate responsibility for the opioid crisis

Published on 08/01/20 at 10:52am

Pharmacy chains have argued in federal court that doctors and healthcare practitioners who write prescriptions bear ultimate responsibility for the improper distribution of opioids to patients, not the chains themselves.

The filings were submitted Monday to the federal judge in Cleveland, who has been overseeing national opioid lawsuits. It asked the judge to rule in their favour and reject the claims bought by Ohio county against them.

The chains including CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, HBC and Drug Discount Mart. Their action is a response to lawsuits from Summit and Cuyahoga counties alleging that pharmacies contributed to the opioid crisis by filling prescriptions for an “excessive volume” of opioids, written by doctors and other practitioners.

The attorneys leading this lawsuit said in a statement: “Pharmacies saw the devastating consequences of this public health crisis firsthand and we will show they did little to nothing to address them.”

However critics have argued that this lawsuit is ignoring the fact that pharmacies dispense drugs based on a doctor’s prescription. They say it also ignores the role that independent pharmacies, clinics and internet pharmacies had, and in many cases dispensed opioids in a higher volume than the chains being sued.

Lawyers for the pharmacy chains said: “A prescription for a controlled substance is an order for a medication that may be issued only by a physician or other authorized healthcare practitioner. While pharmacists are highly trained and licensed professionals, they did not attend medical school and are not trained as physicians."

Ohio was set to be the first state to have a federal trial over the opioid crisis before a settlement was reached back in October.

Conor Kavanagh


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