May 27 (UPI) -- Two Ohio counties on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against several major U.S. pharmacies, stating they were complicit in perpetuating the opioid crisis.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Cleveland alleges that pharmacies operated by CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Giant Eagle and Walmart sold excess quantities of opioids and failed to report suspiciously large orders and sales.
"The crisis arose not only from the opioid manufacturers' deliberate marketing strategy, but from distributors' and pharmacies' equally deliberate efforts to evade restrictions on opioid distribution and dispensing," the suit states. "These distributors and pharmacies acted without regard for the lives that would be trammeled in pursuit of profit."
In the complaint, the counties allege that CVS worked with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to offer its pharmacists seminars on pain management so they would be able to reassure patients and doctors about the safety of opioids.
CVS also partnered with Endo Pharmaceuticals to send letters to patients encouraging them to maintain prescriptions of the opioid Opana. The Food and Drug Administration ordered the extended-release version of Opana removed from the market in 2017 due to extensive abuse, the suit states.
Further, the suit states that a Rite Aid in the town of Painesville, Ohio, which has a population of 19,524, sold more than 4.2 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone while the retailer offered bonuses to stores with the highest productivity.
Other retailers, including Walgreens and Walmart allegedly sought to circumvent federal oversight policies that required them to report large orders to the FDA.
Walgreens and CVS both signed deals with distributors, which stated they would be permitted to regulate their own orders without oversight from the distributors.
In 2012, Walmart placed a fixed limit on opioid quantities it would distribute to stores, but allowed stores to place additional orders from third-party distributors.
CVS responded to the suit in a statement to The New York Times, stating that pharmacists are only responsible for dispensing opioids to patients.
"Opioids are made and marketed by drug manufacturers, not pharmacists," the company said. "Pharmacists dispense opioid prescriptions written by a licensed physician for a legitimate medical need."