The Cherokee Nation introduced a lawsuit against CVS Health, Walgreens and other drug retailers and distributors for the opioid crisis. They say companies are responsible for flooding the tribal community with drugs and creating an opioid addiction.

The lawsuit was filed in tribal court last Thursday. The tribal government said that the companies didn’t monitor opioid prescriptions as they should have and that they are legally responsible for reporting to federal officials. Several cities and counties in the U.S have filed similar lawsuits against drug retailers and distributors.

Image credit: The Huffington Post
Image credit: The Huffington Post

“These drug wholesalers and retailers have profited greatly by allowing the Cherokee Nation to become flooded with prescription opioids,” the lawsuit alleges. “They have habitually turned a blind eye to known or knowable problems in their own supply chains.”

The rate of drug-related deaths among Indian Americans has duplicated

Since 1999, the rate of drug-related deaths among Native American and Alaska Native people has nearly quadrupled, according to the data supplied by the Indian Health Service. Oklahoma is the state with the highest rate of prescription painkiller abuse, and about 120,000 citizens of the Cherokee Nation living there. As well, the rate has nearly doubled in the U.S as a whole.

The lawsuit becomes the first of the kind filed by a tribal nation. Other cities have sued drug companies and pharmacy for the same reasons too. In West Virginia, the lawsuit included several An irregular chains.

According to CVS Health, it has stringent policies and tools to ensure that the pharmacists act with responsibility and that they can determine if a controlled substance prescription is issued for a medical purpose before filling it.

Walgreens declined to speak on pending litigation.

Image credit: Smet
Image credit: Smet

Drug distributors are responsible for the opioid crisis

According to the Controlled Substances Act, Pharmacies have the duty to flag federal officials when they see suspicious prescriptions for substances that are controlled such as opioids. An irregular order might take several forms: for example, a person that fills multiple opioid orders from several doctors, or a prescription for opioids so large that it would be deemed disproportional.

According to the Drugs Enforcement Agency, about 845 million milligrams of opioids were distributed in 14 counties with Cherokee population in 2015. Therefore, about 360 to 720 pills per years were consumed for every prescription opioid user in the Cherokee Nation. 13 percent of Native Americans teens have used OxyContin, according to the American Drug and Alcohol Survey.

As well, the lawsuit stressed that 2.6 percent of American Indian students in 12th grade had used heroin which is almost the double of the rate of the American population as a whole.

“Pharmacists have a duty only to fill scripts that are for a legitimate medical purpose,” said Richard Fields, a D.C.-based lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the tribe. “If a doctor is engaged in prescribing opioids illegally, that doesn’t relieve the pharmacy of liability.”

Image credit: Msmc
Image credit: Msmc

The goal is to get Justice for the Cherokee population

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said that they will fight this opioid crisis in their hospital, homes, and their Cherokee schools; but they are also going to use the legal system as a tool in this fight, so companies don’t put their profits over the people’s welfare while they ruin society with their drugs. They are the responsible of the epidemic.

Lawyers claim that McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS Health, Walgreens, and Walmart are companies that consciously oversupplied the market in and around Cherokee Nation with prescription opioids. They used unsafe distribution and dispensing practices, and failed to report suspicious orders.

In February Erie County, New York, sued four drug retailers and companies — Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Endo International — because of the million dollar cost made by the government to fight opioid addiction.

“The goal is to get justice for the Cherokee Nation and to recover the extraordinary losses they’ve suffered as a result of the opioid epidemic,” said Fields.

There are about 177,000 Cherokee Nation citizens in 14 counties. In general, Native Americans are more likely than other racial or ethnic group in the United States to die from drug-induced deaths, according to the lawsuit. Therefore, the drug impacts are really severe, and they threaten to decimate the Cherokee Nation

The lawsuit doesn’t state a specific dollar amount; however, it makes referent to injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages.

“Tribal nations have survived diseases, removal from our homelands, termination and other adversities, and still we prospered,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, in a press release. “However, I fear the opioid epidemic is emerging as the next great challenge of our modern era.”

The suit also says that companies turned a blind eye to the problem of opioid, and deliberatively sell 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.

Source: The Daily Beast