Walgreens, Walmart and CVS told a federal appeals panel on Thursday that the reasoning behind an opioid abatement fund awarded to two Ohio counties, if extrapolated, would put them on the hook for nearly $500 billion in public health costs nationwide.

In an opening brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, the three pharmacies sought to overturn a 2021 jury verdict and subsequent $650 million abatement award, to be paid over 15 years. The pharmacies’ lawyers contend U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of the Northern District of Ohio’s “unprecedented” abatement award, issued on Aug. 17, would impermissibly “fund a comprehensive slate of government public-health programs designed to address the broad downstream health, social, and criminal-justice effects of the opioid crisis for the next half-generation.”

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