Cobb set to receive $3.5 million in opioid lawsuit settlement with pharmacy

FILE - Cobb County will play venue for a multi-jurisdictional trial next year involving hundreds of government organizations suing opioid manufacturers, retailers and pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in the opioid epidemic. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

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FILE - Cobb County will play venue for a multi-jurisdictional trial next year involving hundreds of government organizations suing opioid manufacturers, retailers and pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in the opioid epidemic. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

The county is pursuing several multi-jurisdiction lawsuits against pharmacy chains

The Cobb County Board of Commissioners will vote July 12 on whether to approve a settlement reached in an opioid lawsuit against Rite Aid — one of several pharmaceutical chains targeted by the county for their alleged roles in the opioid crisis.

The settlement calls for Rite Aid to pay a total of $10.5 million to the three U.S. counties, $3.5 million of which will go to Cobb. The settlement was finalized June 28, but still must be approved by a majority of the commission.

The county plans to use the funds to reimburse opioid related expenses and to fund opioid abatement measures, according to the commission meeting agenda.

Commission chairwoman Lisa Cupid said in a press release back in 2021 that the county pursued litigation “to give voice to the experiences and ongoing needs of our community members on the front lines of the opioid epidemic.”

The lawsuit alleged that Rite Aid did not adequately monitor opioid prescriptions, report suspicious orders and prevent the diversion of prescription pills, therefore contributing to opioid addictions and overdoses, according to the settlement. Rite Aid agreed to the settlement without admitting any wrongdoing.

Cobb has a dark history with the opioid crisis: in 2017, the county had 116 opioid overdose deaths, the highest in the state, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health mortality database. Cobb ranked second in 2018, 2019 and 2020, just behind Fulton County.

In 2019, Cobb formed the opioid fatality review project to “combat the opioid epidemic, reduce fatal overdoses and protect the American people.” In 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, opioid overdose deaths spiked to 115, up from 70 the previous year.

Cobb County is involved in other suits targeting pharmacy retail chains, including CVS Health, Walgreens, Walmart, Kroger and Publix.

These bellwether trials — multi-jurisdictional lawsuits designed to act as test cases indicating the potential success for larger lawsuits — have run alongside the $26 billion, multi-state lawsuit against opioid distributors and manufacturers.

Back in January, Georgia signed onto the nationwide suit and is set to receive a total of $636 million, at least 25% of which will be allocated by the state to local governments, including Cobb County.