(September 28, 2021, 4:16 PM EDT) -- The Cherokee Nation announced Tuesday that it's reached a $75 million settlement with AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. over claims that the companies contributed to the opioid epidemic.
According to a statement by the Cherokee Nation, the deal will see the funds distributed over 6½ years, and it represents the largest settlement in its history.
"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 Jr. said in a statement Tuesday. "This settlement will enable us to increase our investments in mental health treatment facilities and other programs to help our people recover."
The suit is among many by municipalities, Native American tribes and others consolidated in multidistrict litigation that claim that opioid makers and distributors as well as pharmacies are responsible for the nationwide opioid epidemic, with claims that they either misled the public about the dangers of opioids and their addictive qualities, or that they failed to take measures to prevent the illegal diversion and sale of the drugs, leaving those municipalities saddled with the costs of addressing the epidemic.
Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill said the settlement will go toward helping to reduce and prevent opioid addiction and its consequences within the reservation.
The settlement comes three weeks after U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen P. Shreder paused the Cherokee Nation's bellwether trial while the parties discussed a possible global settlement of claims by the Cherokee and other tribes.
While the settlement announced Tuesday only affects claims by the Cherokee Nation, according to attorneys for the tribe, the three companies said in a joint statement that the sum represents an amount consistent with what the nation would receive under a broader settlement with the other tribes in the Ohio MDL.
The Cherokee Nation's suit also includes claims against major pharmacy chains; like drug distributors and manufacturers, pharmacies are facing thousands of lawsuits accusing them of contributing to a deadly plague of narcotic abuse.
The settlement does not affect those claims, the Cherokee Nation said in its statement, adding it intends to "vigorously pursue" those claims through trial, which is expected to be held next fall.
The Cherokee Nation is represented by its attorney general's office, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, Fields PLLC, and Whitten Burrage.
McKesson is represented by Covington & Burling LLP, and Doerner Saunders Daniel & Anderson LLP.
Cardinal Health is represented by Williams & Connolly LLP, and Norman Wohlgemuth LLP.
AmerisourceBergen is represented by Reed Smith LLP, and Crowe & Dunlevy.
The case is Cherokee Nation v. McKesson Corp. et al., case number 6:18-cv-00056, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. The MDL is In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation, case number 1:17-md-02804, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.
By Mike Curley
--Additional reporting by Melissa Angell and Jeff Overley. Editing by Adam LoBelia.