Cherokee Nation reaches settlement with US opioid distributors
Opiods (

The Cherokee Nation said Tuesday that pharmaceutical distributors have agreed to pay it $75 million to end lawsuits stemming from the opioid crisis in America.

The out of court settlement with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson is the first of its kind involving a Native American community in the United States.

"Today's settlement will make an important contribution to addressing the opioid crisis in the Cherokee Nation Reservation; a crisis that has disproportionately and negatively affected many of our citizens," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin said in a statement.

The money to be paid out over six and a half years "will enable us to increase our investments in mental health treatment facilities and other programs to help our people recover," Hoskin said.

The Cherokee Nation sued opioid distributors in 2017, accusing them of closing their eyes to suspicious orders of the highly addictive painkillers.

It said it plans to pursue lawsuits it has already filed against pharmacies such as Walmart, Walgreens and CVS, which could lead to trials within a year.

The opioid crisis in the United States has caused more than half a million overdose deaths in 20 years.

It has also prompted a wave of lawsuits from victims of the drugs and from cities, counties and states grappling with recovery and prevention efforts.

Opioid manufacturers like Purdue Pharma were the first to be targeted. They were accused of encouraging, through aggressive marketing tactics, free-wheeling prescription of their products while hiding how addictive they are.

Purdue Pharma agreed to pay out $4.5 billion to victims of the drugs and states, counties and other entities in exchange for a degree of immunity for its owners, the Sackler family.

Another manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, and the distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson have agreed to pay out a total of $26 billion dollars in damages.