Three US pharmacy chains have recklessly distributed massive amounts of painkiller pills in two counties in Ohio.
A federal jury made this ruling on Tuesday in a verdict that could set the tone for the US city and county governments that want to hold pharmacies accountable for their roles in the opioid epidemic.
The Lake and Trumbull counties blamed CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart pharmacies for not stopping the flood of pills that caused hundreds of overdose deaths and cost each of the two counties about $1 billion (€893 million), their attorney said.
"The law requires pharmacies to be diligent in dealing drugs. This case should be a wake-up call that failure will not be accepted," said Mark Lanier, an attorney for the counties.
"The jury sounded a bell that should be heard through all pharmacies in America," Lanier added.
Attorneys for the three pharmacy chains maintained they had policies to stem the flow of pills when their pharmacists had any concerns and would notify authorities about suspicious orders from doctors.
They also said it was the doctors who controlled how many pills were being prescribed for legitimate medical needs.
It was the first time pharmacy companies had completed a trial to defend themselves in a drug crisis that has killed at least one-half-million Americans in the last twenty years.
How much the pharmacies must pay in damages will be decided by a federal judge next year.