Drug distributors paying $75M to resolve Cherokee Nation opioid epidemic claims

Three drug distributors announced Tuesday that they will collectively pay $75 million to resolve opioid-related claims from the Cherokee Nation.

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AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson said they will pay the amount over six-and-a-half years to settle the lawsuit.

The companies said the settlement was negotiated in connection with “ongoing negotiations towards a broad resolution of opioid claims” from Native American tribes.

“The companies view today’s settlement as an important step toward reaching a broader settlement with all federally recognized Native American tribes across the country,” the joint statement from the three firms said.

The settlement was first reported by Reuters.

The Cherokee Nation sued the distributors in April 2017 in what was the first lawsuit of its kind since the tribe argued that the companies profited from not preventing opioids from being sold in the black market, which hurt its communities and violated sovereign Cherokee laws.

The settlement is the largest in the history of the Cherokee Nation, according to the news outlet Anadisgoi.

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill said in a statement to Anadisgoi that the settlement will “help reduce and prevent opioid addiction and its deadly consequences” in the reservation.

“We believe today’s settlement will do more to help solve this problem- and solve it sooner – than continued litigation,” Hill added.

News of the settlement comes after the three distributors and drug maker Johnson & Johnson reached a $26 billion opioid settlement with a coalition of state attorneys general earlier this year. Tuesday’s settlement covers claims from Native American tribes that were not included in that settlement.

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