by Graham Lee Brewer

TULSA — More than 100 pills were sold for every adult in the Cherokee Nation’s tribal lands in 2015, prosecutors for the country’s second-largest tribe wrote in an affidavit filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

In April, the Cherokee Nation became the first tribe ever to sue pharmaceutical providers for their alleged role in the country’s opioid epidemic. The lawsuit, filed in Cherokee Nation court in Tahlequah, takes on some of the nation’s largest drug distributors and pharmacies, including Walmart and Walgreens. The six companies named in the lawsuit contract with the tribe’s health care system.

In a motion for a preliminary injunction filed in June, attorneys for the drug distributors asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma to remove the lawsuit from tribal court, arguing the Nation lacks the jurisdiction to litigate the case in its court system.

This seems more symbolic than anything else.  Native Americans have a high incidence of genetic traits for addiction.  “Firewater” was their first enemy years ago, as it still is.  I’ve not seen any successful suits against the liquor industry.  The problem lies with the people.  Opiates are amoral; neither good nor bad.  Patients demanding them, lying to get them, stealing them, using subterfuge, etc. are a problem.  Practitioners who are a bit to loose with their prescription pads are another issue.  It’s unfortunate that the genome of the Native American predisposes addiction. At the same time however, it offers protection for things such as HIV which is fascinating as well.
Dr. Raymond Oenbrink