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Cherokee Nation Takes Drug Distributors To Tribal Court

As the nation’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis grows, the Cherokee Nation is launching the first-ever lawsuit against drug distributors that will be litigated in a tribal court.

The suit takes on companies including pharmacies CVS Health, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, and drug distributors Cardinal Health, Inc. and McKesson Corporation, alleging that they didn’t properly monitor prescription painkillers, which eventually “flooded” every Cherokee county.

Here & Now‘s Robin Young talks with Cherokee Attorney General Todd Hembree (@toddhembree) about the lawsuit and about the toll of addiction in the Cherokee Nation.

Statements From Defendants

Walgreens: Walgreens has declined comment.

CVS Health: CVS Health is committed to the highest standards of ethics and business practices, including complying with all federal and state laws governing the dispensing of controlled substance prescriptions, and is dedicated to reducing prescription drug abuse and diversion. We also have stringent policies, procedures and tools to ensure that our pharmacists properly exercise their corresponding responsibility to determine whether a controlled substance prescription was issued for a legitimate medical purpose before filling it. Our commitment to preventing prescription drug abuse also extends to our patient and youth education efforts, an industry-leading program to increase access to the overdose-reversal medication, naloxone, and a drug collection unit donation program to local police departments nationwide.

Support comes from

Cardinal Health: The people of Cardinal Health care deeply about the devastation opioid abuse has caused American families and communities and are committed to helping solve this complex national public health crisis. We are industry leaders in implementing state-of-the-art controls to combat the diversion of pain medications from legitimate uses, and have funded community education and prevention programs for a decade.

Our responsibility as a wholesale distributor is to do our part to prevent the diversion of pain medications from legitimate uses. We do this to the best of our ability based on our position in the prescription drug supply chain through a combination of advanced, state-of-the-art analytics, technology and on-the-ground deployment of investigators to evaluate pharmacies, scrutinize shipments and identify, block and report suspicious orders of pain medications. We continuously improve our processes to keep pace with those seeking to divert pain medications from appropriate uses while remaining committed to our critical role in ensuring patients get the medications they need.

Along with our education partners, we also created GenerationRx, an innovative national prescription drug initiative that includes employees as ambassadors and local pharmacists working together – for more than eight years – to prevent further opioid abuse.

Distributors like Cardinal Health operate as part of a multi-faceted and highly regulated healthcare system – we do not promote, prescribe or dispense prescription medications to members of the public – and believe everyone in that chain, including us, must do their part, which is ultimately why we believe the lawsuits filed against us are misguided, and will do nothing to stem the crisis. We will defend ourselves vigorously in court and at the same time continue to work, alongside regulators, manufacturers, providers, pharmacists and patients, to fight opioid abuse and addiction.

We strongly agree with HHS Secretary Tom Price that the best way to fight the opioid addiction epidemic is to “avoid creating dependence in the first place” by curtailing over-prescribing of these medications. We all have a role to play and Cardinal Health will continue our state-of-the-art efforts to make a difference.

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