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November 30, 2021

Around the nation: Jury finds Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS responsible for opioid epidemic

Daily Briefing

    A federal jury found that Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS were responsible for the opioid epidemic in two Ohio counties, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from Florida, Ohio, and Washington.

    • Florida: Ascension Florida earlier this month announced that the suspensions of unvaccinated employees would be revoked due to a Covid-19 policy shift. The health system updated its policy after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation on Nov. 18 that blocked federal vaccine mandates. In a Nov. 19 memo, Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast President and CEO Tom VanOsdol said that "[a]ll associates will be required to continue to comply with our infection control protocols." In addition, the memo stated that suspensions could be reinstated with further clarification of the Florida legislation and CMS' Covid-19 vaccine mandate. (Gooch, Becker's Hospital Review, 11/22)
    • Ohio: A federal jury in Cleveland last week found CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart liable for contributing to the opioid epidemic in Lake and Trumbull counties under a public nuisance law. This case—hailed as "a milestone victory" by the two counties—marks the first time the retail drug industry has been held legally responsible for the opioid epidemic. In fact, courts in Oklahoma and California earlier this month ruled against plaintiff's public nuisance claims. "For decades, pharmacy chains have watched as the pills flowing out of their doors cause harm and failed to take action as required by law," lawyers for the plaintiffs said. "Instead, these companies responded by opening up more locations, flooding communities with pills, and facilitating the flow of opioids into an illegal, secondary market." All three companies have argued that Ohio's public nuisance law was not applied correctly in this case—and announced plans to appeal the verdict. (Hoffman, New York Times, 11/23; Maher, Wall Street Journal, 11/23; Kornfield/Bernstein, Washington Post, 11/23)
    • Washington: The Alliance for Health Policy earlier this month honored Sarah Wilkerson, regional director of infection prevention in Montana, for her role in treating the first Covid-19 patient in the United States at Providence Regional Medical Center almost two years ago. Wilkerson's 11-year nursing career began in the operating room. She received her master's degree in nursing from the University of Washington. In addition, she co-authored an article on the first U.S. Covid-19 case that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. (Hansen, Missoulian, 11/18)

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