Cherokee Nation Sues Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens for Opioid Abuse

In a lawsuit filed last week in the District Court of the Cherokee Nation, located within the state of Oklahoma, the tribe’s attorney general is alleging Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens, along with 3 major prescription drug distributors, have caused great harm to the Cherokee Nation.

The lawsuit claims the defendants failed in their duties to properly monitor the distribution of certain prescription drugs that are considered federal controlled substances, and that the failure to monitor the distribution has led to a drug epidemic. Primarily at issue are the powerful opioid drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.

Details of the Case

Opioids have long been known for their effective pain relief, but there is a major concern due to their addictive qualities. Many individuals will succumb to opioid addiction, as a result of a legitimate need for prescription pain relief, after suffering from a medical condition or injury that required the pain relief. Under the law, distributors of prescription drugs, particularly those that are considered illicit controlled substances that are frequently abused, are subject to stringent regulations.

The lawsuit alleges that the distributors and pharmacies deliberately turned a “blind eye” to suspicious orders, and routinely ignored “red flags.” The stringent regulations impose a legal duty for prescription drug distributors to investigate and track suspicious orders. The Cherokee Nation’s lawsuit cites to numerous examples of these large distributors failing to do so, as well as alleges that the Cherokee Nation’s injury is a result of these failed duties.

Cherokee Nation Seeking Justice

While the lawsuit makes several specific legal claims, at the heart of the case is the allegation that the drug distributors and pharmacies put profits over responsibility. As the Cherokee Nation faces a prescription drug epidemic, the sovereign nation is seeking to hold the major distributors and pharmacies liable for damages, and to force them to change their practices.

The damages being sought are compensatory in nature, as they seek to recoup costs the tribe has had to expend to combat the prescription drug epidemic. However, policy changes are also being sought to impose tighter regulations to prevent, hopefully reverse, the prescription drug epidemic on the tribe.

While this case may be in the Cherokee Nation’s court, other cases across the country have seen success making similar allegations.

Related Resources: