Cherokee Nation Lawsuit Holds Drug Distributors Accountable for Opioid Diversion

Bryn Wesch, CFO of Novus Medical Detox Center, comments on the lawsuit against prescription opioid wholesalers and retailers.

The Cherokees’ lawsuit is the first filed by a tribal nation against opioid distributors and retailers.

The Cherokee Nation has filed a lawsuit against several leading prescription opioid wholesalers and retailers, alleging the defendants “have profited greatly by allowing the Cherokee Nation to be flooded with prescription opioids,” resulting in hundreds of Cherokee deaths and “hundreds of millions of dollars” in damages.(1) Novus Medical Detox Center, a leading Florida-based drug treatment facility, examines the latest lawsuit targeting the prescription opioid industry and predicts the case will pave the way for legal action from other tribal nations.

The complaint reported that between 2003 and 2014, there were more than 350 opioid-related deaths within the Cherokee Nation, and estimated there were “over 10,000 hospital admissions or emergency-room visits and hundreds of thousands of instances of non-medical use of or addiction to opioids by Cherokee Nation citizens” during this period.(1) Government data shows that the rate of drug-related deaths among American Indians and Alaska Natives is almost double that of the general population; in fact, from 1999 to 2013, the rates of prescription opioid overdose deaths among these communities nearly quadrupled.(2)

The lawsuit also outlined numerous settlements, fines and orders against the defendants as proof they knew or should have known they were facilitating widespread opioid diversion. For example, Cardinal Health agreed to a $34 million penalty in 2008 and another $34 million settlement in 2016, while McKesson Corporation…

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