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Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A federal jury said Tuesday that Walgreens, CVS and Walmart recklessly distributed pain pills in two Ohio counties and played a hand in the hundreds of overdose deaths that plagued the communities, AP reports.

Why it matters: It's the first verdict for pharmacy companies in a case involving the opioid crisis, per AP. The verdict — with a judge set to rule on damages this spring — could set a precedent for other local governments that seek to hold pharmacies accountable.

Details: Pharmacies distributed around 80 million prescription painkillers in Trumbull County between 2012 and 2016, or 400 for every resident, according to AP.

  • Around 61 million pills circulated in Lake County in the same time frame.
  • Attorneys for the three pharmacy giants argued they had policies in place to minimize the dispensing of pills and that doctors had ultimate authority over prescriptions.
  • The counties countered that pharmacies were blaming everyone but themselves and that they contributed to a public health crisis that taxed the region’s courts, social services and law enforcement.
  • Their attorney said the flood of pills cost the counties about $1 billion each, per AP.

What they're saying: CVS Health spokesperson Michael DeAngelis said in a statement that they "strongly disagree" with the decision and will seek to appeal the ruling.

  • "[T]the simple facts are that opioid prescriptions are written by doctors, not pharmacists; opioid medications are made and marketed by manufacturers, not pharmacists; and our health care system depends on pharmacists to fill legitimate prescriptions that doctors deem necessary for their patients."

Worth noting: Several opioid manufacturers and drug distributors are facing criminal investigations from the Department of Justice for similar concerns about the flow of prescription painkillers.

Go deeper

Nov 24, 2021 - Health

Doctors are becoming a hot commodity

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Pharmacies and insurers are increasingly competing to directly hire doctors and nurse practitioners as they move deeper into primary health care delivery.

Driving the news: The latest example is CVS Health's latest plan to reduce its retail locations as it pours more resources into its digital health delivery and health hub locations.

Why it matters: Primary care is the starting point for all other points of health care. Companies that own more of those interactions are offering convenience to consumers, while also standing to make more money.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 9 mins ago - Health

Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The travel bans and border closures prompted by the Omicron variant likely won't fully prevent its spread, but that won't stop countries from leaning on the measures.

Why it matters: The rapid speed at which countries turned to travel bans with the emergence of Omicron indicates border controls will increasingly become a weapon against infectious disease — whether or not public health experts agree they are effective.

29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP fights itself on shutdown politics

Reporters question Senate Minority Whip John Thune before the Republican Party's weekly lunch on Tuesday. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are scrambling to reach a deal with a bloc of 15 Senate Republicans threatening a government shutdown to force a fight over the Biden administration's vaccine mandates.

Why it matters: The push to defund the mandates — by holding the short-term government funding bill hostageis largely symbolic, and highly controversial within the Republican Party. A shutdown as early as midnight Friday could trigger everything from national park closures to delays in receiving Social Security checks.