Healthcare

Native American tribes reach settlement with Johnson & Johnson, drug distributors over opioids

Pills in a box
U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah via AP, File

Native American tribes have reached a $665 million settlement with drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson regarding opioids in the community, a filing with the U.S. District Court in Cleveland on Tuesday showed. 

More than 400 Native American tribes sued Johnson & Johnson and three U.S. drug distributors for allegedly producing and shipping opioids to Native American tribes despite warnings of health issues and overdoses that were affecting the community. 

The companies say they did not do anything wrong and followed federal laws. 

McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen have agreed to pay almost $440 million over a seven-year time frame, according to the court document. The companies also previously agreed to pay around $75 million to the Cherokee Nation. 

Johnson & Johnson said it would pay $150 million over a two-year time frame. 

“The Company’s actions relating to the marketing and promotion of important prescription opioid medications were appropriate and responsible,” Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. “This settlement is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing and the Company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.”

The settlement states the number of tribes involved in the litigation against the drug manufactures represents more than 70 percent of recognized tribes in the U.S. and around 85 percent of tribal citizens. 

Lloyd Miller, one of the attorneys representing the tribes in the case, told The Hill the tribes settled in order to focus on the effects the opioid crisis has had in their communities. 

“The litigation is a crushing burden for both sides that would last several years and produce uncertain results.  Meanwhile, opioid overdoses and addiction continue largely unabated. Settlement at the right amount provides a practical path forward so that Tribes can turn their full attention to responding to the suffering within their communities,” Miller stated. 

The Hill has reached out to the other three drug distributors in the case for comment.

This story was updated at 4:13 p.m. to reflect the total settlement between the companies and the Cherokee Nation as well as other Native American tribes.

This story was last updated at 6:29 p.m.

Tags Cardinal Health Drug overdose johnson & johnson Native American Opioids

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