An executive for AmerisourceBergen who called opioid addicts “pillbillies” and used other denigrating terminology won’t be terminated or disciplined, a company spokesperson told the Daily Caller.
AmerisourceBergen is one of three pharmaceutical companies currently facing a lawsuit for its role in the American opioid crisis. In emails revealed during the trial in Charleston, West Virginia, AmerisourceBergen executive Chris Zimmerman mocked opioid addicts on numerous occasions, including referring to them as “pillbillies.”
After Kentucky passed new regulations to restrict OxyContin and other painkillers amid a spike in overdoses, an executive with drug giant AmerisourceBergen wrote, “One of the hillbilly’s [sic] must have learned to read :-)”https://t.co/zW3lgIuGlU
— Eric Eyre (@EricEyre) May 13, 2021
Zimmerman sent an email with a parody of the theme from the hit 1960s TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and in another he parodied Jimmy Buffett with a piece called “OxyContinVille.” In court, Zimmerman apologized and said he “shouldn’t have sent that email,” but claimed he was referring to drug dealers as “pillbillies,” not the addicts.
When the Daily Caller inquired to AmerisourceBergen about the status of Zimmerman within the company, Gabe Weissman, senior vice president of communications at the company, said it was important to “set the record straight” about the emails.
Weissman said the emails were “created outside of AmerisourceBergen and then were circulated amongst teams focused on diversion control who were monitoring public reports and information.” He then added that context was important, and “when this email was sent, unfortunate terms like ‘pillbillies’ frequently appeared in news coverage surrounding the opioid epidemic.”
Weissman proceeded to then cite two editorial pieces printed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail that used the term “pillbillies” in a non-denigrating manner. (RELATED: Drug Companies Could Get Millions In Tax Refunds For Opioid Settlement Costs)
“Mr. Zimmerman has spent his 30+ year career helping AmerisourceBergen play our part, as a distributor, to limit diversion in an environment which at times lacked clear regulatory guidance, while continuing to provide safe and secure access to important FDA-approved medications for healthcare providers to serve their patients,” he added.
When asked if there would be any discipline handed down whatsoever to Zimmerman or any other employees potentially involved, AmerisourceBergen wouldn’t acknowledge that any wrongdoing was committed to begin with. “The company rejects that broad categorization of the emails, and as noted in the statement, the messages were circulated amongst teams focused on diversion control who were monitoring public reports and information,” a spokesperson told The Daily Caller.
Cabell County attorney Paul Farrell Jr., who is representing the county and city of Huntington in the lawsuit, presented the emails as evidence during the trial. He accused AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Inc. and McKesson Corp of facilitating addiction and pumping 80 million doses of opioids Cabell County and Huntington despite knowing the devastating toll the crisis was taking on the community.