The Osage Nation announced August 30 that it has filed a lawsuit against several pharmaceutical manufacturers and drug distributors for the public-health crisis caused by the prescription opioid epidemic in its community. While the impact from the epidemic can be felt nationwide, the prescription opioid crisis has also been harmful to Native American communities. The prescription opioid crisis has caused Osage Nation to expend scarce resources to a wide range of social services and healthcare needs which would not have been necessary without the opioid industry distribution scheme. The case was filed in the Osage County District Court and it is anticipated it will be combined with the claims of other tribes and local governments in a federal court in the State of Ohio.
The lawsuit alleges several companies and their subsidiaries, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and others, made billions of dollars by using a variety of deceptive marketing practices in a manner that conceals and minimizes the addiction risk as well as misleading consumers and healthcare providers about the long-term effects, proper use and dangers of opioids. The lawsuit also alleges that drug distributors, such as Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation and others failed to account for and control opioids in tribal areas and willfully violated laws intended to prevent the diversion of prescription opioids and prevent their abuse.
The Osage Nation wants to send a message to the defendants that the impact of the opioid epidemic will be felt for generations and defendants should be responsible for the resources that will be needed to abate the epidemic. The Osage Nation joins several others to ensure that tribal voices are heard as the opioid litigations moves forward nationwide.