The Cherokee Nation has filed a lawsuit against six major pharmacy chains and PBMs for failing to prevent the spread of illegally prescribed opioids in the Cherokee Nation.
The lawsuit was filed against McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., AmerisourceBergen, CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., and Walmart Stores, Inc. The lawsuit is reportedly the first of its kind, according to a Cherokee Nation press release, because it is “holding retailers responsible or perpetuating the opioid crisis in the 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma that comprise the Cherokee Nation.”
The move is not entirely unprecedented, however. In March, Cabell County in West Virginia filed a lawsuit against drug wholesalers and several chain pharmacies. However, one of the attorneys working on the case, William Ohlemeyer, told Drug Topics that this lawsuit is unique because the Cherokee Nation is such a large political entity. He said that the lawsuit should be thought of in the same way as if a state were suing the companies, and added that it was the first state-wide claim against pharmacies and distributors.
Oklahoma, and Native Americans in particular, has been deeply impacted by the opioid epidemic. In the state of Oklahoma, 10.14% of the population aged 18 to 25 admitted to abusing prescription pain killers in the last year. The rate of opioid abuse among Native Americans is almost twice that of the general U.S. population. When former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, M.D. visited tribal representatives in 2016, he said that the “prescription opioid epidemic that is sweeping across the U.S. has hit Indian country particularly hard.”
The petition filed by the Cherokee Nation claims that “the brunt of the epidemic could have been, and should have been, prevented by the defendant companies acting within the U.S. drug distribution industry, which are some of the largest corporations in America. These drug wholesalers and retailers have profited greatly by allowing the Cherokee Nation to become flooded with prescription opioids.”
Up next: The evidence