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Native American tribes reach $590M settlement with U.S. opioid distributors

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More than 400 Native American tribes reached a $590-million settlement Tuesday with Johnson &amp; Johnson and three other drug distributors. File Photo by Justin Lane/EPA-EFE <br>
More than 400 Native American tribes reached a $590-million settlement Tuesday with Johnson & Johnson and three other drug distributors. File Photo by Justin Lane/EPA-EFE

Feb. 1 (UPI) -- More than 400 Native American tribes reached a $590-million settlement Tuesday with Johnson & Johnson and three other drug distributors, according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland.

Johnson & Johnson said it will pay $150 million over a two-year time frame, while McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen will collectively cover an additional almost $440 million over seven years, reports the New York Times.

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The tribes collectively sued Johnson & Johnson and the three other distributors, accusing them of producing and shipping opioids to Native American tribes, ignoring health warnings and contributing to overdoses affecting their members, reports The Hill.

"The company's actions relating to the marketing and promotion of important prescription opioid medications were appropriate and responsible," Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.

RELATED Young Americans lost 1.5 million years of life to opioid overdoses

"This settlement is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing and the company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve," the company said.

Under terms of the settlement, the companies do not admit any wrongdoing and maintain they followed existing federal guidelines.

"The Native American population has suffered some of the worst consequences of the opioid epidemic of any population in the United States. Indeed, American Indians have suffered the highest per capita rate of opioid overdoses," the tribal leadership committee said in a statement filed with the court, reports ABC.

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"American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest drug overdose death rates in 2015 and the largest percentage increase in the number of deaths over time from 1999-2015 compared to other racial and ethnic groups."

Also Tuesday, the family that owns Purdue Pharma, which is also involved in litigation surrounding opioid production, said it is "close" to increasing a financial contribution towards a settlement, according to court documents reported by ABC.

The court documents were filed by the Sackler Family.

RELATED Study: Older adults, Medicare, Medicaid beneficiaries at higher risk for opioid overdose

A judge is mediating the dispute between Purdue and more than a dozen states that rejected a bankruptcy reorganization plan.

Eight of those states had rejected an original $4 billion settlement plan, saying it was too small.

A deadline for the settlement had originally been set for Tuesday.

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