Native American tribes have reached settlements over the toll of opioids totaling $590 million with drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and the country’s three largest drug distribution companies, according to a court filing made Tuesday.
The filing in U.S. District Court in Cleveland lays out the broad terms of the settlements with Johnson & Johnson and distribution companies AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson. Some details are still being hashed out.
All federally recognized tribes in the U.S. will be able to participate in the settlements, even if they did not sue over opioids. And there could be settlements between other firms in the industry and tribes, many of which have been hit hard by the overdose crisis.
W. Ron Allen, chair of the Jamestown K’Klallam Tribe in Sequim, Washington, called it a big deal for tribes to reach their own settlement, in contrast with tobacco industry deals in the 1990s that left out Native American groups.
Allen doesn’t expect his tribe of about 550 people to get much from the settlement, but it will help in its efforts to build a healing center that will address opioid addiction, he said.
“Every penny counts, so we’ll take it and run with it,” he said.
One study cited in the settlement found that Native Americans have had the highest per capita rate of opioid overdose of any population group in 2015.
“American Indians have suffered the highest per capita rate of opioid overdose and are more likely than other group in the United States to die from drug-induced deaths,” said Douglas Yankton, chair of the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota, in a statement. “The dollars that will flow to Tribes under this initial settlement will help fund crucial, on-reservation, culturally appropriate opioid treatment services.”
More than 400 tribes and intertribal organizations representing about 80% of tribal citizens have sued over opioids.
New Brunswick, New Jersey-based Johnson & Johnson — whose opioids included Duragesic and Nucynta but which has stopped selling opioids — said in a statement Tuesday that the settlement is not an admission of liability or wrongdoing.
AmerisourceBergen, based in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, said in a statement that the deal will expedite help for communities and let the company focus on the pharmaceutical supply chain.
Cardinal, based in Columbus, Ohio, and McKesson, based in Irving, Texas, declined to comment.
Native American tribes reach $590 million opioid settlement | AP NewsNative American tribes reach $590 million opioid settlement | AP News