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Native American Tribes Reach $590M Settlement With Drug Firms

Johnson & Johnson and three major U.S. drug distributors agreed to pay nearly $590 million to Native American tribes affected by the opioid crisis to resolve lawsuits against the companies, reports the Wall Street Journal. Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay $150 million to tribes over two years. Distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp. , McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. will pay more than $439.9 million over seven years. It is separate from a $75 million settlement reached between the distributors and the Cherokee Nation. More than 400 tribes sued the companies over the past four years, alleging that they had fueled the opioid epidemic in Native American communities, causing tribal governments to spend millions of dollars in health care, social services and other costs. The settlement will become effective if tribes representing 95 percent of the settlement amount agree to participate. In 2020, Native Americans had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths for any race or ethnicity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All 574 federally recognized tribes will be permitted to receive money from the settlements, regardless of whether they filed opioid lawsuits. The settlement agreement was reached in federal court in Cleveland, site of the national opioid litigation. The deal follows a historic $26 billion settlement that the four companies reached last July with states including Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Louisiana, Delaware and Connecticut. Under the settlement announced Tuesday, funds would be paid out to the tribes more quickly than to the states. For example, Johnson & Johnson would pay the tribes $150 million over two years, compared with up to $5 billion to the states over nine years.


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