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Judge orders Walmart, CVS and Walgreens to pay $650 million over opioid crisis

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An Ohio federal judge on Thursday ordered drugmakers Walmart Inc, CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. to pay $650.6 million (639.3 million euros) to two counties in the same state for damages related to the opioid crisis.

The companies will have to pay, on the one hand, $306.2 million to Lake County, while they will have to pay $344.4 million to Trumbull County. These fees are to be paid over the next 15 years to help the counties deal with the consequences of the public health crisis created by the improper sale of the drugs.

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The order by Cleveland federal Judge Dan A. Polster has also directed drug companies to consider measures to implement systems to ensure full compliance with federal drug sales control laws.

The total cost to drug companies facing opioid lawsuits could ultimately be more than $22 billion, according to estimates by Holly Froum of Bloomberg Intelligence.

After learning of the ruling, CVS shares were down 1.3 percent, Walgreens shares were down 2.8 percent and Walmart shares were down 0.2 percent.

Municipalities across the country have accused opioid manufacturers, distributors and sellers of downplaying the painkillers’ addiction risks and sacrificing patient safety for financial gain.

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Hundreds of thousands of people have died in recent decades as part of the opioid crisis in the United States, according to data from the nation’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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