Tribes sue pharmaceutical companies for 'flood' of opioids

Lawsuit claims the companies to deceive doctors and patients into believing the drugs were non-addictive.

TACOMA – The Port Gamble S’Klallam, Suquamish and the Jamestown S’Klallam tribes have filed a lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors, claiming the companies have flooded their reservations with deadly opioids.

Filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on Monday, it names Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and others for misleading health care providers and consumers about the dangers of opioids. It also names distributors such as Cardinal Health, McKesson Corporation and others for failing to account for and control opioids in tribal areas.

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"The suit contends that the companies manufacturing, marketing, and distributing opioids carried out a scheme to make doctors and patients believe that prescription opioids were safe, non-addictive, and could be used without long-term effects," said Ed Clay Goodman, an attorney with a Portland, Oregon-based law firm representing the tribes in the lawsuit, in a news release. "That effort, as well as the failure of the companies to track orders and distribution of the drugs as required by law, shows companies created an illicit market for highly addictive drugs that have ravaged tribal communities."

The tribes are launching the suit with the intent of joining a series of cases – filed by dozens of states, tribes, counties and municipalities that have sued the companies over the last year – consolidated in a federal lawsuit in Ohio.

"The tribes feel it imperative that tribal voices are included in the litigation and any settlement discussions to ensure that any remedies — legal or otherwise — include tribes and address their concerns," Goodman said.