Cherokee Nation Sues Drug Wholesalers and Retailers for Opioid Abuse

On April 20. 2017, the Cherokee Nation filed suit in the District Court of the Cherokee Nation alleging that certain wholesale drug distributors and pharmacies have caused the citizens of the Cherokee Nation to become addicted to opioid drugs and that the defendants could and should have taken steps to prevent the opioid epidemic. The complaint states that the defendants created an environment in which drug diversion can flourish causing damages to the Cherokee Nation; including the cost of medical care, counseling and rehabilitation services, child welfare, law enforcement and public safety, and lost productivity of Cherokee Nation citizens and businesses. The Cherokee Nation is asking the Cherokee Court to award injunctive relief, compensatory damages, statutory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. The Complaint states that the District Court of the Cherokee Nation has jurisdiction because the defendant distributors conduct business with the Cherokee Nation and the defendant pharmacies fill prescriptions for Cherokee Nation citizens and hire Cherokee Nation citizens.

This case raises a number of interesting issues regarding the duties of pharmacies to ensure that they dispense only those prescriptions that are based on legitimate medical need. This is a case to watch.

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