The opioid epidemic in America is something that has been around in recent years, longer than the actual pandemic virus in itself that the world is still recovering from.
Leading drug companies have since then faced lawsuits over their role in causing a sizable portion of the US population to become addicted to painkillers. At the end of 2020 two members of the Sackler family, owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, attempted a public apology in this regard.
Fast forward to today, another one of America’s largest drug companies, AmerisourceBergen, is in hot water because it’s revealed their executives reportedly mocked opioid addictions.
AmerisourceBergen is being sued by West Virginia for getting people “hooked on their drugs,” as Daily Mail puts it.
This litigation is how company emails came out.
“One email in 2011 from a Joseph Tomkiewicz, who was working as a corporate investigator for the company at the time, included a rhyme to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies theme song in which a 'poor mountaineer' named Jed 'barely kept his habit fed' and traveled to Florida to buy 'Hillbilly Heroin' — a nickname for OxyContin.”
Elsewhere, the emails described Kentucky as “OxyContinville” and a regional director for Amerisource said “One of the [Kentucky’s] hillbilly's must have learned how to read :-)” when the state passed restrictions in response to the opioid crisis.
But the most infamous takeaway from the Daily Mail article is from Chris Zimmerman, whose job title is described as “enforcing AmerisourceBergen's legal obligation to halt opioid deliveries to pharmacies suspected of dispensing suspiciously large amounts of drugs.”
After Florida passed opioid restrictions, he remarked “Watch out 'George' and Alabama, here will be a max exodus of pillbillies heading north.”
Zimmerman clarified in court that “pillbillies” meant drug dealers and not the users. He says he regrets sending it.
U.S. District Judge David Faber denied the prosecution being allowed to introduce further emails as evidence after it was argued that they were being taken out of context.