Drug Distributors Lost Big Money to Native Americans

In a historical event, hundreds of Native Americans have reached a $590 million settlement with the three largest drug distributors of America, alongside the famous drugmaker Johnson and Johnson.

The natives claimed the companies aggravated the opioid epidemic in their communities, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Native Americans will get hefty money in an opioid settlement case

According to Aljazeera, many drugs, including oxycontin, heroin, and illegal fentanyl, have caused over 500,000 deaths in America over the last two decades.

Until now, companies compensated more than $40 billion for their role in the opioid crisis to different groups after losing legal challenges to them.

The filing of the US District Court of Cleveland, Ohio cited that Native Americans suffered from the highest per capita death rate of the opioid crisis, compared to any other group of the United States, in 2015.

Over 400 tribes and intertribal organizations comprising more than 80 percent of overall indigenous peoples sued companies over opioids. Now, even those Natives who did not take part in the lawsuits, and are recognized by the federal government, are eligible for the compensation.

As per the deal, Johnson and Johnson, which had a net income of $20.8 billion in 2021, has to pay $150 million in two years; the drug distribution companies need to pay $440 million within seven years.

Most of this money will be diverted toward drug addiction treatment of the same communities and other similar programs.

This $590 million sum is different from another $75 million settlement between a Native American tribe, Cherokee Nation, and the three distribution companies. So, in total, the indigenous Americans will be paid almost $665 million.

One of the top lawyers of the tribes’ Steven Skikos, claimed the resources would help Natives to address the prevailing drug addiction crisis.

Indian Americans were badly impacted by Opioid over-dependency

Repeated studies have indicated Native Americans were affected disproportionately by the crisis.

For instance, in 2016 alone, the Oglala Lakota County of South Dakota, which is home to the Oglala Lakota Tribe, reported a death rate of 21 people per 100,000 residents for drug consumption.

This was more than double the statewide average reported in the same year.

The same was the case with pregnant indigenous women, who were almost 8.7 times more likely to develop opioid dependency, compared to pregnant women of other demographics.

A senior official of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa, Mississippi, which has almost 45,000 American Indians, claimed the opioid crisis in her community is pervasive. The tribe will look forward to healing the suffering members after receiving its share.

This deal is somehow similar to another settlement made last year, but this one has a substantially faster timeline. This will help Natives in acquiring the resources in the next few years.

While drug distributors declined to comment on the issue, Johnson and Johnson claimed the agreement does not represent the admission of any wrongdoing on its end.