The Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma has reached a $75 million opioid settlement with three of the nation's largest drug distributors, the first deal of its kind with a tribal government in the country.
AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson shipped vast quantities of highly addictive pain pills over the last 20 years, triggering an avalanche of lawsuits.
In a statement, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the opioid crisis had disproportionately affected people in his community.
"This settlement will enable us to increase our investments in mental health treatment facilities and other programs to help our people recover," Hoskin said.
The Cherokee Nation is a sovereign government with more than 390,000 citizens. Officials described this as the largest settlement in their history.
The drug companies also issued a joint statement "strongly" denying any wrongdoing. They said payouts will be spread over the next six to seven years.
"This settlement was negotiated in connection with ongoing negotiations toward a broad resolution of opioid-related claims brought by Native American tribes," the firms said in a release sent to NPR.
AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson and a fourth firm, Johnson & Johnson, are also in the final stages of confirming a $26 billion opioid settlement with state and local governments across the U.S.
In their statement, the companies said the deal with the Cherokee Nation won't affect that process.
Meanwhile, Cherokee Nation officials said they will continue to pursue separate litigation against pharmacy chains that sold opioid medications, including CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.
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