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Cherokee Nation Sues Pharmacies For Opioid Crisis

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In an unprecedented move, the Cherokee Nation has sued retailers and distributors of opioids on claims that the companies have played a big role in “an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse” within the tribe. They also allege that the companies have not taken steps to keep members of the tribe from illegally acquiring prescription painkillers.

The lawsuit names six distribution and retailer pharmacies, including Walgreens, CVS and Wal-Mart. It states that these companies have produced conditions wherein, “vast amounts of opioids have flowed freely from manufacturers to abusers and drug dealers” in the 14 Oklahoma counties that make up the Cherokee Nation, CBS News reports.

The tribe says that these companies frequently “turn a blind eye” to opioid prescriptions that would otherwise require further investigation before the pills are sold to individuals. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the same companies have not tried to reduce instances of opioid abuse and addiction in the name of profit. This has supposedly caused the deaths of hundreds of Cherokee members, and has cost the tribe millions of dollars in health care costs.

The suit says,

Defendants have created an environment in which drug diversion can flourish.

Filed in the Cherokee Nation District Court, it names distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp., and pharmacies CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as defendants.

Gabriel Weissman of AmerisourceBergen says that for their part, they stop shipments of orders if they appear suspicious. He explains, “The issue of opioid abuse is a complex one that spans the full health care spectrum, including manufacturers, wholesalers, insurers, prescribers, pharmacists and regulatory and enforcement agencies.”

Cardinal health states that it will defend against allegations, and believes that the lawsuit does not do anything to help “the hard work needed to solve the opioid abuse crisis — an epidemic driven by addiction, demand and the diversion of medications for illegitimate use.”

CVS Health says that it has strict policies and procedures when it comes to ensuring that controlled opioids are used only for legitimate medical purposes, while Walgreens says it does not comment on pending cases.

Richard Fields, attorney for the tribe, states that the lawsuit aims to make companies accountable for putting an oversupply of opioids on the market. “We’re hoping that this case and others like it will put a focus on the supply is too great,” Fields says.

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