(Reuters) – The pharmacy chain Walgreens Boots Alliance and other defendants said on Tuesday that they were not guilty of the opioid crisis in San Francisco, and that they acted responsibly when giving legal medication to patients with pain.
“Almost all of these prescriptions were written by good, well-meaning doctors,” Walgreen’s attorney Kate Swift said during opening statements at a San Francisco federal court hearing. “It was appropriate for good pharmacists to fill these prescriptions.”
The trial, which began on Monday, is the first to target drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies over the addictive painkillers.
San Francisco has accused Walgreens, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., AbbVie Inc.̵7;s Allergan unit and drug distributor Anda Inc., owned by Teva, of creating a “general nuisance” by flooding the city with prescription opioids and failing to prevent the drugs from being diverted for illegal use.
A San Francisco lawyer said in preliminary statements on Monday that the entire prescription drug industry was guilty of ruthlessly expanding the opioid drug market.
San Francisco has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, which has caused more than 500,000 overdose deaths across the country in the past two decades, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid-related health problems now account for 25% of emergency visits to the city’s largest public hospital, according to the lawsuit.
Drug manufacturers Teva and Allergan said on Tuesday that they were smaller players in the crisis compared to companies such as Purdue Pharma and the rich Sackler family who own the now bankrupt company.
“This crisis traces back to Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family and their pursuit of profit,” said Collie James, a lawyer for Teva and its subsidiaries.