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Osage Nation files lawsuit against opioid manufacturing companies

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FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2018, file photo, oxycodone pills are displayed in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

It is a full-blown public health crisis, and as a judge said in a Norman courtroom earlier this week, Johnson and Johnson helped fuel the fire of our opioid crisis in the state.

That's why the Osage Nation is now filing suit against Johnson and Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Perdue Pharma, saying they made billions of dollars using deceptive marketing techniques to minimize the addiction risk of these medications.

"American Indians have the highest overdose death rate, per 100,000, of any group in the United States," said Dr. Ron Shaw, CEO of Osage Nation Health Services.

Shaw is a familiar name in medical circles nationwide.

He's leading the fight against opioids from his office at the Wah-Zah-Zhi Health Center.

He says while many people talk the talk, it is very hard to walk the walk under the influence of the mind altering drugs.

"There's a lot of stigma right now. People are very embarrassed that they took these prescriptions and it got away from them and now they can't get off. They're ashamed that they've lied and that they have spent a lot of their money, and perhaps even abandoned their children under the control of these brain-altering changes from opioids," said Shaw.

The Osage Nation says the purpose of its lawsuit is to send a message that the impact of the opioid epidemic will be felt for generations, and the companies should be responsible for the resources needed to stop the epidemic.

We spoke with Shaw before this suit was announced, but just after the state had won it's $572 million judgement.

He says that money is desperately needed.

"I think we should offer treatment on demand," he said. "We need, I would be say, probably an equal amount spent on prevention."

We have not yet heard from the pharmaceutical companies on the new lawsuit.

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