As the opioid crisis impacts communities across the nation, Erie County is suing five pharmacy chains.
The lawsuit states millions of prescription pain killer doses were prescribed over the course of eight years starting back in 2006.
Erie County is suing five chain pharmacies claiming they contributed to the opioid epidemic by flooding the local market with prescription painkillers. Pharmacies include CVS, Giant Eagle, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart.
The Erie County solicitor said they’re arguing pharmacies filled these prescriptions despite suspicious orders.
“These national pharmacies, whether it’s under a statute or under there own policies, they have an obligation to look for red flags to make sure that the opioids going out into the market are not going to the wrong parties and not being used for diverting for illegal purchases. We believe that in some cases that duty was breached,” said William Speros, Erie County solicitor.
The county is trying to hold pharmacies accountable for hundreds of millions of painkiller prescriptions they filled from 2006 to 2014
“In order to fight a problem like this, it takes a lot of money, and some of the blame falls on several different entities. We think the pharmacies are one of those types of entities that can financially help us fight this crisis,” Speros added.
A similar lawsuit was filed in Ohio that led to a $650 million award. One local attorney said we will likely see more of these cases across the country, however, the outcome is unclear.
“Whether or not pharmacies are legally liable for the opioid crisis is really a question that isn’t well answered. There have been verdicts in Ohio recently where they were held to account, but those cases are likely to be appealed,” said Eric Purchase, attorney.
Purchase said he believes early cases filed in states like California will shape how future cases are handled.
“We’re going to see some leading decisions coming out of the jurisdictions, and that’s going to shape that are later filed are handled,” said Purchase.
Erie County lawsuit is more than 250 pages. The county is suing pharmacies for negligence as well as other charges.