In a landmark case in the USA, three large pharmacy chains were found guilty of having contributed to the devastating opioid crisis by laxly dispensing addictive drugs.

A jury in a federal court in Cleveland on Tuesday (local time) concluded that US retailers Walmart, CVS and Walgreens did not adequately control pain reliever sales in the state of Ohio.

The companies announced their appointment.

Two counties in Ohio had sued. They are demanding billions of dollars in compensation from corporations for the cost of fighting opioid addiction and overdosing. How much Walmart, CVS and Walgreens have to pay will be determined by a federal judge in the spring. The companies deny complicity in the opioid crisis. They claim to have sold pills prescribed by licensed doctors. There are numerous similar US lawsuits, so the process is considered an important guide.

Opioids are partly synthetically produced drugs with, among other things, pain-relieving properties.

However, they also harbor an enormous risk of dependency and a high potential for abuse.

The opioid epidemic in the United States has resulted in nearly half a million deaths in the past two decades, according to the CDC.

Most US lawsuits are directed against manufacturers and wholesalers of pain relievers, but the operators of large pharmacy chains are now also under considerable legal pressure.