Big Pharmacy is no stranger to lawsuits and this time they’re in a bind against not only an individual but an entire tribe. The Swinomish Native American tribe in Washington has filed a lawsuit against huge pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson and Johnson. Purdue Pharma is on the prime manufacturers of the deadly and addictive drug, Oxycontin. The Swinomish tribal community claims that the companies used false and misleading advertising techniques that “fueled the opioid epidemic and results in death and devastation to Swinomish families.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of Native Americans and Alaska Natives dying from opioid overdoes skyrocketed four-fold between 1999 and 2013. By 2014, Native Americans had the highest death rate from opioid overdoes out of any other ethnic group in the country. The lawsuit attributes this increase and epidemic to the pharmaceutical companies. Further, the lawsuit states that the opioid epidemic affects the tribe culturally and economically and deceptive companies must be held accountable.
Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby, the former president of the National Congress of American Indians says of the lawsuit: “We have been holding funerals while these companies reap record profits. It is time they are held accountable for the destruction they’ve caused in the Swinomish community.”
Purdue Pharmaceutical attempted to dismiss the Swinomish lawsuit but a King County Superior Court judge shut them down. Purdue also tried to counter lawsuits in South Carolina and Oklahoma and was not allowed.
For short-time rehabilitation to currently struggling opioid addicts, The Swinomish tribe established its own opioid dependency treatment center called The Didg’alic Wellness Center. “Didg’alic” is a Lushootseed word that translates roughly to “place where camas was dug” Camas is both a flower and food staples amongst Native American culture. This wellness center has been the Swinomish tribe’s way of taking back control in the out-of-control opioid crisis brought on by Big Pharma, but they feel the lawsuit will bring further justice.
Cladoosby sums up: “It’s very important for the companies to understand we feel they created a plague in the United States, and we don’t feel they’re doing enough to address it.”