The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 500,000 Americans have died due to opioid overdoses over the last decade, with an overwhelming number of those deaths occurring within the country’s Native and Indigenous populations.
And now, a new $75-million lawsuit settlement struck between the Cherokee Nation and three of America’s leading opioid distributors hopes to bring restitution for at least some of those tragic deaths.
NPR’s Brian Mann reported that the multi-million-dollar settlement struck between Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation and pharmaceutical distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson is “the first deal of its kind with a tribal government in the country.” The settlement amount is also the largest ever in Cherokee Nation’s history.
According to Mann, the three companies “shipped vast quantities of highly addictive pain pills over the past 20 years, triggering an avalanche of lawsuits.”
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said he believes the nation’s opioid crisis disproportionately impacted many people in his community. The Cherokee Nation is considered a sovereign government with more than 390,000 citizens.
“This settlement will enable us to increase our investments in mental health treatment facilities and other programs to help our people recover,” he said.
In a statement released following news of the settlement, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson “strongly” denied any wrongdoing for their potential role in the country’s opioid epidemic. Payouts to the Cherokee Nation are expected to be distributed over the next six or seven years.
Mann reported that the companies are also in the final stages of approving a “$26-billion opioid settlement with state and local governments across the U.S.”
“This settlement was negotiated in connection with ongoing negotiations toward a broad resolution of opioid-related claims brought by Native American tribes,” the firms said.