A federal judge in San Francisco ruled against Walgreens Wednesday, finding the pharmacy chain guilty of contributing to the opioid crisis. File Photo by Billie Jean Shaw/UPI
Aug. 10 (UPI) -- A federal judge in San Francisco ruled against Walgreens on Wednesday, finding the pharmacy chain guilty of contributing to the opioid crisis.
In his ruling, Senior District Judge Charles Breyer said the second-largest pharmacy chain in the country did not take "reasonable steps to prevent the drugs from being diverted and harming the public."
The lawsuit accused Walgreens of filling hundreds of thousands of questionable prescriptions over a span of almost 15 years.
"The opioid epidemic has taken an immense toll on our city & thousands of communities across the country," City Attorney of San Francisco David Chiu wrote on Twitter.
"We can't get back the lives lost or undo the damage done to our city, but this decision ensures Walgreens is held accountable. This ruling holds Walgreens liable for creating a public nuisance in SF for over dispensing opioids & failing to flag suspicious orders as required by law."
The trial took place from April 25 to June 27. The financial penalty levied against Walgreens will be determined in a later trial.
Other initial defendants, including pharmaceutical companies AbbVie, Endo and Teva, settled their claims, leaving Walgreens as the only remaining defendant.
"This is the first bench trial that has found against Walgreens," Chiu said in an interview with the San Francisco Standard.
"And I think it's reflective of the fact that we put in the significant evidence that demonstrates their liability for creating the incredible public nuisance and tragedy that we're seeing on our city streets, as well as across America when it comes to the opioid crisis."
Walgreens said it plans to appeal the judgment.
"The facts and the law do not support the court's decision," the company's Senior Director of External Relations Fraser Engerman said in an interview with CBS affiliate KPIX-TV.
"As we have said throughout this process, we never manufactured or marketed opioids, nor did we distribute them to the 'pill mills' and internet pharmacies that fueled this (opioid) crisis."
In July, opioid makers Allergan and Teva agreed to pay $54 million as part of a settlement.
Teva also settled a similar lawsuit in New York State in December.