America’s largest drug makers, dispensaries, and pharmacies in the massive opioid multi-district litigation in Cleveland are pitching Judge Dan Polster on why government claims for billions in recovery for opioid-response costs should be tossed.

Defendants CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart came out swinging Nov. 2 in a brief arguing that Magistrate Judge David Ruiz’s recommendation to save most of the plaintiffs’ claims from dismissal “missed the forest for the trees.” Hinting at possible trial arguments, they claim local governments are too far removed from any alleged harm connected to dispensing that would allow municipalities to bring a suit.

Their pleas to...