By Mark Gillispie
The Associated Press

CLEVELAND >> So many prescription painkillers were dispensed in Lake County, Ohio, between 2012 and 2016 that the amount equaled 265 pills for every resident. Just to the south, the flood of prescription opioids during the same period equated to 400 pills for every resident of Trumbull County.

Attorneys say efforts to address the ensuing overdose epidemic has cost each of the financially struggling counties at least $1 billion. Now those counties want major national pharmacy chains that were involved in much of that distribution to pay.

In a bellwether federal trial starting Monday in Cleveland, Lake and Trumbull counties will try to convince a jury that the retail pharmacy companies played an outsized role in creating a public nuisance in the way they dispensed pain medication into their communities.

This will be the first time pharmacy companies, in this case CVS, Walgreens, Giant Eagle and Walmart, have gone to trial to defend themselves in the nation’s ongoing legal reckoning over the opioid crisis. The trial, which is expected to last around six weeks, could set the tone for similar lawsuits against retail pharmacy chains by government entities across the U.S.

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