Three Tribes file Opioid Lawsuit
The Rosebud, Flandreau and Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux tribes filed the lawsuit. It follows more than 70 similar cases filed around the country.
The tribe’s lawsuit targets drug makers Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Allergen PLC, as well as distributors McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., and AmerisourceBergen Corp.
The tribes’ charges are similar to those made in other opioid industry cases – fraud, deceptive marketing, RICO Act violations. It is one of the first suits to tie those claims to the impact on Native American populations.
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The complaint notes that one in 10 Native American youth 12 or older uses opioid pain medications for recreational reasons. That’s double the rate for Caucasians. Native Americans also suffer higher rates of overdose.
An attorney for the tribes said, “This epidemic has overwhelmed our public-health and law-enforcement services, drained resources for addiction therapy, and sent the cost of caring for children of opioid-addicted parents skyrocketing. This is a crisis that affects virtually every Tribal member in the state.”
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The 106-page petition charges that deceptive opioid marketing included misleading advertisements, paid speakers to sell doctors, and direct-to-doctor marketing.
The tribes charge that they were sold several opioid falsehoods, including that there was a low risk of addiction, that the products carried a low risk of producing a “high,” that there was no maximum dose, and that there were no opioid withdrawal symptoms.
The lawsuit says that because the people pitching the products adhere to a script, “it can be reasonably inferred that most, if not all, of the Pharmaceutical Defendants’ detailers made and continue to make these misrepresentations to the thousands of doctors they have visited and continue to visit.”
RICO Act Charges
The RICO Act violations relate in part to a pharmaceutical group called the “Healthcare Distribution Alliance,” an industry group the lawsuit says was used to inflate opioid sales and supplies. RICO is an acronym for Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations. The law behind it allows for both criminal and civil penalties for groups engaged in dishonest financial conduct.
Similar civil and criminal cases have been filed around the country, including a class action lawsuit in Mississippi, and lawsuits in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Massachusetts.
The defendant companies have not yet filed a responses to the lawsuit.
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