Hundreds of Native American tribes, who have paid a heavy price for the opiate crisis in the United States, will receive 665 million dollars (590 million euros) from four major pharmaceutical groups, after several agreements ending their pursuits. The distributors, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, had already struck a separate deal with the Cherokee Tribe in September for $75 million. According to a document filed in court on Tuesday, February 1, they also agreed to pay $440 million over seven years to other Native American tribes. The pharmaceutical group Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay 150 million dollars over two years to these tribes.
The opiate crisis, the cause of more than 500,000 overdose deaths in 20 years in the United States, has triggered a flurry of litigation in the United States from direct victims and many communities (cities, counties, states. ..). Native American tribes have been particularly affected, the agreement recalls. In 2015, they suffered from the highest rate of overdose deaths per capita. And over the period from 1999 to 2015, they also experienced the largest percentage increase in the number of such deaths compared to other ethnic groups, according to a document on file.
“Because of this, tribal governments across the United States have had to spend vast sums to cover the costs of the opioid crisis, including higher costs for health care, social services, life protection ‘childhood, law enforcement’, is added in the agreement. These expenses have “diverted scarce tribal funds from other needs” and have “imposed heavy financial burdens” on the tribes.
All tribes recognized by the US government, 574 in total, will be able to participate in the agreement, even if they have not taken legal action. It has yet to be accepted by most tribes, the lawyers added, noting also that lawsuits by Native American tribes against other groups are still ongoing. AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson and Johnson & Johnson had already agreed last summer to pay $26 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits as part of a broad agreement with many communities.
Johnson & Johnson clarified that the $150 million the company had agreed to pay as part of the Native American tribes deal would be withdrawn from this larger deal and stressed that it was not “an admission of liability or wrongdoing”. The company “will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve”said Johnson & Johnson (in English). Asked by AFP, the other companies did not immediately specify whether the 440 million they had agreed to pay collectively to the Native American tribes were part of the 26 billion agreement.