Sep 28, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Drug distributors reach $75 million opioid settlement with Cherokee Nation

Oxycodone pain pills

Oxycodone pills. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The nation's three largest drug distributors reached a $75 million settlement agreement Tuesday with the Cherokee Nation to resolve a lawsuit alleging the companies contributed to an opioid crisis in the tribe's territory.

Why it matters: This comes after the three distributors — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — and Johnson & Johnson reached a $26 billion settlement with a group of state attorney generals to settle similar claims, but it did not include any of the nation's Native American tribes.

The big picture: The drug distributors continue to "strongly dispute" the allegations but have agreed to pay the $75 million over a period of six-and-a-half years, per a press release.

  • The distributors also termed the deal "an important step toward reaching a broader settlement with all federally recognized Native American tribes across the country."
  • In 2017, the Cherokee Nation was the first Native American tribe to sue drug distributors and pharmacy operators in connection to the opioid crisis, per Reuters.
  • Tuesday's settlement is the largest in Cherokee Nation history, according to Cherokee Nation news site Anadisgoi.

What they're saying: “Today’s settlement will make an important contribution to addressing the opioid crisis in the Cherokee Nation Reservation," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. told Anadisgoi.

  • "This settlement will enable us to increase our investments in mental health treatment facilities and other programs to help our people recover,” he added.
  • "We believe today’s settlement will do more to help solve this problem— and solve it sooner — than continued litigation,” Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill added to Anadisgoi.
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