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Health Systems Are Next in Line for Lawsuits After the Opioid Verdict

December 15th, 2021: Following a federal jury's ruling that big drugstore chains aided in the creation of the American addiction problem, health systems and firms collecting drug prescription data may find themselves in the crosshairs of opioid liability. Walmart Inc., CVS Health Corp., and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. have joined Johnson & Johnson, McKinsey & Co., and others in the drug supply chain in being accused of driving an epidemic that has resulted in over 800,000 overdose fatalities in the United States.

According to legal experts, the decision signals a shift in the direction of cases, with plaintiffs' lawyers targeting additional organisations involved in the distribution of opioid prescriptions. By shifting away from purposeful deceit and toward those who failed to do more in response to warning signs, the opioid class actions have migrated from medication makers to distributors to pharmacies. Plaintiff attorneys may target health systems or big, managed care medical organisations for the same reason: tolerating and failing to address the problem.

The drugstore chains were found guilty because they reportedly neglected to set up monitoring systems to detect illicit opioid prescriptions. The newest jury trial's conclusion differs from prior settlements that let Big Pharma off the hook, and it might pave the way for forum shopping.

Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens are notable for filling a high number of prescriptions and being arranged in such a way that more effective compliance procedures would have made a difference. "Peripheral groups" that drugmakers like Purdue Pharma hired to "drum up market demand" for opioids are among the marketers who might face accountability, according to Noll. "Data aggregators," who gather data from pharmacies and health-care providers for marketing information to sell to manufacturers, might also be on the line.

Attorneys may shop around a for court that is most likely to find in their favour if their views are so divergent. Defendants may attempt to transfer their case to a location with more lenient public nuisance standards, which is a major issue in the case. Public nuisances are situations or behaviours that have a detrimental influence on a community. This decision raises questions about the applicability of public nuisance legislation, which varies in terms of wording, breadth, and application from state to state in the United States.

-Sarthak Dixit

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