Navajo Nation Files Lawsuit Against Opioid Distributors and Manufacturers

Apr 11, 2018

The Navajo Nation has filed a lawsuit against several companies that distribute and manufacture prescription opioids. KNAUs’ Ryan Heinsius reports, overdose deaths in Indian County have increased rapidly in recent years. 

Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch speaks in Salt Lake City in December 2017.
Credit Chris Detrick/The Salt Lake Tribune

According to Navajo officials, Walgreens, CVS and several other companies have failed to prevent the flow of opioids onto the reservation, creating an environment for highly addictive drugs. They also say manufacturers have downplayed the risks of using opioids to treat chronic pain, and haven’t properly investigated illegitimate prescriptions.

"We want to make sure that our communities aren’t being saturated by supply and that the controls are in place that prevent our tribal members from having unfettered access to opioids," says Navajo Attorney General Ethel Branch.

Branch says the Navajo Nation is also seeking compensation for the monetary costs to the tribe associated with the opioid epidemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Native American communities have experienced a five-fold increase in overdose deaths in the last two decades, more than any other ethnic group.

Several of the companies declined to comment on the pending litigation. Others did not immediately respond to request for comment.