November 22, 2022

Cherokee Nation Settle Opioid Lawsuit

The Cherokee Nation is pleased to announce that it has reached a $75 million settlement with multiple opioid manufacturers and distributors. The tribe filed the suit in 2016, alleging that drug companies pushed highly addictive medications on communities like theirs without warning about risks or providing necessary care for addiction. This landmark agreement will help fund programs and services aimed at combating the devastating effects of opioids in Native American communities nationwide.

This is a landmark settlement for the Cherokee Nation and all of Indian Country, said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. The opioid epidemic has devastated our community, so this funding will have an immediate impact in addressing the drug crisis head on.

As part of the agreement, defendants will contribute $7.5 million to establish a National American Indian and Alaska Native Addictions Program in the Cherokee Nation. Money from this settlement will help raise awareness of opioid addiction in Indian Country, provide funding for treatment programs and train the community to use the life-saving drug naloxone. Defendants have also agreed to contribute $17 million over seven years to a separate Community Services Grant program that addresses substance use disorders and mental health issues, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The defendants also agreed to pay $6 million over ten years in additional fees for the Community Services Grant program.

This settlement marks a significant step toward justice for Indian Country and for our tribe, said Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree. We must hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for fueling the epidemic that has destroyed so many lives. We will use this money to help our people heal from this crisis.

This agreement not only provides financial resources but also promotes collaboration between tribes, states and the federal government to address the opioid addiction epidemic gripping communities nationwide. This settlement will directly benefit Indian Country by funding unique programs that address the crisis. Tribal leaders have long called for greater tribal control over public health care, which is part of why this settlement includes special provisions to empower tribes in their own battle against opioid addiction.

The defendants will also establish a process for new product development and approval of abuse-deterrent formulations of opioids intended for use in the treatment of acute pain. Defendants will make all commercially reasonable efforts to license, if not develop new product formulations which are abuse deterrent within three years.

The drug companies that settled with the Cherokee Nation are: Purdue Pharma L.P. The Purdue Frederick Company (d/b/a Purdue Pharma) Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. Cephalon Inc. (d/b/a Teva) Johnson & Johnson Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. Ortho McNeil Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. (d/b/a Janssen) Endo Health Solutions Inc. and Allergan PLC (f/k/a Actavis PLS), which are subsidiaries of Endo International plc.

This settlement is part of the Cherokee Nation’s comprehensive approach to combating opioid abuse in Indian Country.

The Cherokee Nation operates its own tribal justice system, with nearly 200 judges who preside over hundreds of cases each year. The tribe also established the Cherokee Nation Department of Behavioral Health.

The Cherokee Nation works with its partners at every level to provide prevention, intervention and treatment services for people who are struggling with opioid addiction or practicing high-risk behaviors, said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker.