Cherokee Nation Sues Opioid Providers and Pharmacies

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The Cherokee Nation has filed a lawsuit in the Cherokee Nation District Court against six distribution and pharmacy companies, claiming that they have unjustly profited through over-prescribing and selling opioids.

The companies included in the lawsuit include three pharmaceutical companies: McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen. It also includes three pharmacies: CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. The lawsuit claims that it was the companies’ responsibility to monitor opioid prescriptions and orders in Cherokee Nation, identify the red flags present, and report those issues to the federal government. Essentially, the companies should have noticed warning signs like individual patients trying to fill prescriptions from multiple doctors, or driving long distances to fill prescriptions for no apparent reason.

The lawsuit details the horrific effects that prescription opioids have had on the community, noting that American Indians are more likely to die from drug overdoses than other ethnic groups. Annual deaths from opioid overdose have doubled in Cherokee nation between 2003-2014, and now outnumber deaths from car accidents. It also points out that young people have been hit particularly hard. It reads:

A 2014 study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found a much higher prevalence of drug and alcohol use in the American Indian 8th and 10th graders compared with national averages. American Indian students’ annual heroin and OxyCotin use was about two to three times higher than the national averages in those years.

The lawsuit also details the issues with women who are addicted to opioids and become pregnant, as well as the harm to the community as a whole when drug addiction and crime rise. The Cherokee Nation is seeking restitution for health care costs for those who have been affected by opioid addiction.

Cherokee Nation isn’t the first area to file a lawsuit against companies for the metoiric rise in opioid issues around the U.S.–earlier this year, Everett, Washington became the first city to sue a painkiller manufacturer. A tiny town in West Virginia, called Kermit, sued McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal health, Miami-Luken, AD Smith Corporation and a former Kermit pharmacy, Sav-Rite Pharmacy. Those are just a couple examples–there have been others, and until the opioid crisis in the U.S. is under control, there are sure to be more.

In the Cherokee Nation lawsuit, the companies named in the suit have either elected not to comment or have pointed out that they have stringent policies in place to deal with opioid abuse, or that addiction is the real issue.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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