In Opioid Battle, Cherokee Want Their Day in Tribal Court

That treaty was the final official act of Principal Chief John Ross, a lawyer by training who led the tribe on a forced cross-country march in 1839 along “The Trail of Tears” to resettlement in Oklahoma. He is Mr. Hembree’s great-great-great-great grandfather.

On its face, the suit looks like a straightforward neglect case.

Mr. Hembree says that over a five-year period, drug distributors ignored red flags and allowed alarming quantities of prescription opioids — in 2015 and in 2016, 184 million pain pills — to pour into the region within the boundaries delineated by the Treaty of 1866. In doing so, the Cherokee argue, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, three corporations which transport about 90 percent of the country’s prescription opioids, did not comply with federal drug monitoring and reporting requirements.

Pharmacies, which sold the medication directly, also bear responsibility, the suit says. CVS, Walgreens and Walmart have stores in the Cherokee Nation that are among the top 10 Oklahoma pharmacies for opioid sales. Pharmacists sidestepped their duties, Mr. Hembree argues, looking the other way when filling prescriptions that were obviously photocopied, written for suspicious quantities or refilled too soon.

In response, distributors say they are links in a complex chain that includes companies that make government-approved medications and licensed pharmacists.

“We intend to vigorously defend ourselves in this litigation while continuing to work collaboratively to combat drug diversion,” said a spokeswoman for AmerisourceBergen.

The pharmacy chains say their role is to dispense medications prescribed by physicians and that they, too, are making efforts to combat the opioid crisis, such as a recent event at a Walgreens in the Cherokee Nation, touting the company’s collection of unused medications.

Tribal courts generally do not have jurisdiction over people who are not Native Americans. The Cherokee are relying on a Read the full article from the source…

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