Chero­kees file suit over flood of opi­oids

Ac­tion in tribal court names large re­tail­ers, top mak­ers of drugs

The Dallas Morning News - - NATION -

Lawyers for the Chero­kee Na­tion opened a new line of at­tack against the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try Thurs­day, fil­ing a law­suit in tribal court that ac­cuses the na­tion’s six top drug dis­trib­u­tors and phar­ma­cies of flood­ing com­mu­ni­ties in Ok­la­homa with hundreds of mil­lions of highly ad­dic­tive pain pills.

The suit al­leges that the com­pa­nies vi­o­lated sov­er­eign Chero­kee laws by fail­ing to pre­vent the di­ver­sion of pain pills to the black mar­ket, prof­it­ing from the grow­ing opi­oid epi­demic and harm­ing com­mu­ni­ties across the na­tion’s 14 coun­ties in the state.

“De­fen­dants turned a blind eye to the prob­lem of opi­oid di­ver­sion and prof­ited from the sale of pre­scrip­tion opi­oids to the cit­i­zens of the Chero­kee Na­tion in quan­ti­ties that far ex­ceeded the num­ber of pre­scrip­tions that could rea­son­ably have been used for le­git­i­mate med­i­cal pur­poses,” the suit says.

By fil­ing the suit in tribal court, lawyers for the Chero­kee Na­tion said they hope to gain quicker ac­cess to in­ter­nal cor­po­rate records that could show what the com­pa­nies knew about the di­ver­sion of pain pills on In­dian lands in north­east­ern Ok­la­homa. It is the first time an In­dian na­tion has filed suit against com­pa­nies for the dam­age done by pow­er­ful pain pills such as oxy­codone and hy­drocodone.

The suit names the three largest drug dis­trib­u­tors in the United States: McKes­son Corp., Car­di­nal Health and Amerisource Ber­gen, which to­gether con­trol roughly 85 per­cent of pre­scrip­tion drug distribution in the coun­try. Also named in the suit are some of the big­gest names in the re­tail drug busi­ness: CVS, Wal­greens and Wal Mart.

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