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Navajo Nation Sues Opioid Makers, Distributors

The Navajo Nation is the latest to sue pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors for their role in a surge of opioid-related deaths. The tribe filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New Mexico on Wednesday.

The Navajo said in its lawsuit American Indians have suffered disproportionately from opioid dependency and abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers back up that claim. Native Americans face opioid-related deaths at three times the rate of other minorities, according to the CDC.

The tribe said in its lawsuit that the opioid epidemic has exacerbated child abuse and neglect, poverty and social despair on the reservation. The Navajo Nation said it has helped cover costs of treatment and paid for law enforcement and social services to respond to the epidemic.

The Navajo are seeking unspecified damages and attorney fees.

One defendant denied the allegations. A few of the pharmaceutical companies named in the lawsuit said they are working to help combat the opioid crisis and have reported suspicious orders for the drug to the federal government. Others declined to comment.

Laurel Morales was a Fronteras Desk reporter in Flagstaff from 2011 to 2020.