AmerisourceBergen ‘Pillbillies’ emails take center stage

The internal communication of the distributors was called into question in the process.

AmerisourceBergen top executives have passed on emails mocking “pillbillies” who became addicted to opioid pain medication, even as the company dumped excessive pills in the Appalachians and fueled the country’s opioid epidemic. The company is the 10th largest in the United States by revenue and provides drug distribution and advice on medical business operations and patient services.

In 2011, an email contained a rhyme about “a poor climber” named Jed who “barely fed his habit … Jed goes to Florida to buy hillbilly heroin” (aka OxyContin). Another email read, “Sunny Florida is where you should be. So they loaded the truck and drove quickly. South, that is. Pain clinics, cash ‘n carry. A crowd of pillbillies! ”It goes on:“ You are all invited to this place again. To have a lot of help from Florida’s hospitality. Tablet mills that is. Buy some pills. Take home a load. Are you all coming back now, do you hear? “

Photo by Torsten Dettlaff from Pexels

In another email, Kentucky is referred to as “OxyContinville” because of the high consumption of the drug in rural areas. When Kentucky was introducing new drug delivery restrictions, an AmerisourceBergen executive wrote: [sic] must have learned to read 🙂 “.

After Florida cracked down on pill factories, Chris Zimmerman, a senior executive, emailed his colleagues, “Watch out for Georgia and Alabama, there will be a maximum exodus of pillbillies north.” that he regretted this, but defended his communication and said that it was “a reflection of the environment at that time”.

A company spokesman, Gabe Weissman, said the emails were “simply evidence that part of AmerisourceBergen’s comprehensive surveillance program includes tracking potential illegal activity and trends in prescription drug diversion over the Internet.” He added, “Through this process, our redirect investigators often discover and share content.”

“It’s a pattern of behavior from the people charged with protecting our community, and they post e-mails demeaning backwoodsmen,” fired Paul Farrell, a West Virginia district attorney. He alleged Zimmerman failed to enforce company policies to report suspicious orders to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The City of Huntington and the surrounding county of Cabell have filed lawsuits against distributors AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health – “The Big Three”. This is the first case to come on trial after AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and two other companies agreed to pay $ 260 million to settle Ohio’s top cases in 2019.

From 2015 to 2020, more than 700 people died of opioid overdoses in Cabell County, which is considered “ground zero” for the crisis. Data compiled by the federal government showed that distributors delivered nearly 128 million doses of prescription opioids to the county from 2006 to 2014. In 2017, AmerisourceBergen also paid $ 16 million to settle a case of opioid shipments in West Virginia but admitted no wrongdoing, McKesson paid a record $ 150 million to settle a case with the DEA.


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