South Dakota tribes sue opioid makers over drug epidemic
Breaking News Jan 11, 2018
South Dakota tribes sue opioid makers over drug epidemic

Three South Dakota tribes – Rosebud Sioux, Flandreau Santee Sioux and Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate – have filed a federal lawsuit against some major opioid manufacturers and distributors, accusing them of selling addictive prescription drugs without prior notification of the risks involved. The lawsuit from these American Indian tribes is led by two former U.S. attorneys and is in line with around 70 other similar cases filed nationwide. Drug manufacturers like Teva Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, Allergen PLC and distributors such as AmerisourceBergen Corp., McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. figured in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, one in 10 South Dakota tribal youth aged 12 or older uses prescription opioid painkillers for non-medical purposes, which is twice the rate of addiction among white Americans. Studies suggest, between 2015 and 2016, around 18 percent of opioid-related deaths occurred among tribes, while 28 percent of patients treated for opioid use disorders in South Dakota were native Americans.

The 106-page lawsuit speaks of a wide range of deceptive marketing tactics, violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and the use of misleading promotional campaigns. Among the various fraudulent misrepresentations highlighted by the tribes are the downplaying of the addiction risks, denial of the existence of a maximum dose limit and overlooking the possibility of opioid-related withdrawal symptoms.

“This epidemic has devastated our public health and law enforcement services, exhausted resources for treating addiction, and sent the costs of caring for children of opioid-addicted parents on an upward spiral. This is a crisis that affects virtually every tribal member in the state,” said Brendan Johnson, the former U.S. attorney for South Dakota and co-counsel for the tribes. Johnson is also joined in representing the afflicted tribes by Tim Purdon, a former U.S. attorney for North Dakota.

Havoc of opioid addiction

Sadly, a common American is still ignorant of the dangerous consequences of opioid misuse. The deadly opioid epidemic fueled by misuse of prescription painkillers has resulted in more fatalities than mass shootings or car crashes have ever caused nationwide. Though public health authorities have left no stone unturned in creating awareness among citizens to highlight the gravity of the crisis, they have failed to curb the rising incidents of opioid-related overdoses. According to the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there were 11.8 million opioid misusers aged 12 or older in the U.S. in the past year, the vast majority of whom misused prescription painkillers.

With millions of Americans finding themselves in the throes of prescription drug abuse, experts believe a full-blown addiction is the result of complete emotional dependence on opioids. The only way to embark on the road to sobriety is to undergo a customized opioid addiction treatment program at a professional rehab to reverse the negative effects of the drug.

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