$590 Million Opioid Settlement Reached with Native American Tribes

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According to a court filing made public Tuesday, Johnson & Johnson and three of the county’s most significant drug distribution companies agreed to pay Native American tribes $590 million over the effect of opioid use. 

Broad terms of the settlement with Johnson & Johnson, and distribution companies AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, was laid out in the filing in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland. Some details of the settlement are still being worked out. 

Even if they did not want sue over opioids, all federally recognized tribes in the U.S. would be able to partake in the suit. 

Settlements between other firms in the industry and Native American tribes, that opioids have ravaged, could still occur. 

According to W. Ron Allen, chairman of the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe in Washington state, this settlement is significant for tribes. Unlike in the 1990s when Native American tribes were left out of the deals with the tobacco industry.  

Allen’s tribe, of about 550 people, is not expected to receive much money from the settlement. He said the funds would be used to build a healing center. The center will address the opioid crisis. 

“Every penny counts, so we’ll take it and run with it,” he said.

A 2015 study, cited in the settlement, discovered that Native Americans had the highest per capita rate of opioid overdose than any other group.

“The dollars that will flow to tribes under this initial settlement will help fund crucial, on-reservation, culturally appropriate opioid treatment services,” said Douglas Yankton, chairman of the Spirit Lake Nation in North Dakota.

Roughly 80% of tribal citizens, representing over 400 tribes and intertribal organizations, have sued over the opioid epidemic. 

In a statement Tuesday, New Brunswick, New Jersey-based, Johnson & Johnson said the settlement is not an admission of guilt. Johnson & Johnson opioid drugs included Duragesic and Nucynta

The deal will expedite help for communities and allow the company to focus on the pharmaceutical supply chain, said AmerisourceBergen, based in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. 

Cardinal Phamicidical company declined to comment. 

The pharmaceutical companies will pay a large amount of money over the next few years. Over the next two years, Johnson & Johnson will pay $150 million. $440 million will be paid by AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal over the next seven years. 

If each of the 574 federally recognized tribes decide to take part in the settlement, the money is to be used to battle the opioid crisis. 

When 95% of the tribes with lawsuits agree to the settlement, the deal will take effect, said Tara Sutton, whose law firm represents 28 tribes. 



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