‘Pillbillies’: Drug Execs Mocked Opioid Abuse In Rural Towns At Height Of Epidemic

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Font Size:

A court case against the nation’s three largest pharmaceutical distributors revealed emails in which executives of big pharmaceutical companies ridiculed and mocked the victims of West Virginia’s opioid epidemic, according to Mountain State Spotlight.

Cabell County attorney Paul Farrell Jr. showed the emails — some of which mocked the addicts as ‘pillbillies’ — as evidence during the trial in Charleston, West Virginia, the outlet reported. Farrell, who represents the county and the city of Huntington, contends that the companies facilitated the addictions and the subsequent opioid crisis.

In one of the emails that Farrell shared, AmerisourceBergen executive Chris Zimmerman ridiculed West Virginia addicts by emailing a parody of the theme song for the 1960s classic television show, “The Beverly Hillbillies.” In the email, Zimmerman mocked a “poor mountaineer” that bought drugs at a “cash ‘n carry” pain clinic, Mountain State Spotlight reported. (RELATED: New Jersey Doctor Illegally Prescribed Enough Opioids To Kill His Entire County)

A second email was titled “OxyContinVille,” a play on the famous Jimmy Buffett song, “Margaritaville.” It included a parody of a drug addict driving across state lines to Kentucky to purchase pills.

Huntington, West Virginia, was considered ground zero of the epidemic at one point, ABC News reported. A new program that began in 2017 helped to alleviate damage from the epidemic, however, the COVID-19 pandemic reversed some of the progress that was made.

AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp are accused of being the catalyst for a “public nuisance” by ignoring the addiction that was destroying the local community and peddling approximately 80 million opioid doses over eight years in Cabell County and the city of Huntington, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

A drug overdose report revealed that 7,200 West Virginians — the majority between 35 and 54 — died with at least one opiate in their system between 2001 and 2015, The AP reported.

Zimmerman apologized in court for the insensitive emails and stated that the term “pillbillies” was not in reference to the victims but rather the drug dealers, according to Mountain State Spotlight.

“I shouldn’t have sent the email,” he said.