The CEOs of several drug companies recently had the audacity to claim their businesses have not contributed to West Virginia’s opioid epidemic, according to a May 8 article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
These individuals are dangerously delusional.
They were called before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee investigating massive shipments of opioid drugs to small-town pharmacies, according to the article.
Among them were George Barrett, executive chairman of Cardinal Health, John Hammergren, CEO of McKesson Corp., J. Christopher Smith, former president and CEO of the H.D. Smith Drug Co. and Steven Collis, CEO of AmerisourceBergen. These death peddlers had the gumption to stand before a government panel and deny their companies shared any of the blame for a crisis that is killing thousands in the Mountain State.
This lack of responsibility is malicious and reprehensible. These individuals are among the lowest of the low.
Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., rightfully ripped into these men. The Gazette-Mail quoted him as saying, “The fury inside me is bubbling over.”
We don’t blame him.
These companies shipped tens of millions of highly addictive painkillers to small towns, in one case 5 million pills to a drive-thru pharmacy in Mingo County, where the pharmacy owner later went to prison, according to the Gazette Mail article.
Only one person, Dr. Joseph Mastandrea, chairman of Miami-Luken, a regional wholesaler based in Ohio, had the courage to admit drug companies shared in the blame.
While the responsibility does not lie solely on the shoulders of the drug companies, they certainly own a sizeable share of it. For their leaders to stand before our government and profess these boldface lies is an offense, not only to West Virginias but all Americans.
This epidemic will not subside unless we make sweeping changes to the way we handle drug abuse in our society. Those changes include punishing those who recklessly supply opioids to users, whether those suppliers are overprescribing doctors, pharmacy owners or uncaring corporate shills like these men.