Friday, June 04, 2021

Opioid trial update: Distributor trade-group memo shows plan to shift blame for drug epidemic to providers, patients

In 2015, a trade group for major drug distributors planned to shift blame for the opioid epidemic to pharmacists, doctors and their patients. That's according to a memo mentioned in the ongoing trial in West Virginia that aims to hold some of the nation's largest drug distributors (McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health) financially liable for the epidemic.

The memo was "sent to a senior executive at that trade group, the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, that bemoaned 'imbalanced' coverage by reporters at local papers" and offered strategies for shunting the blame elsewhere, Lucas Manfield reports for Mountain State Spotlight.

The prosecutors "have argued that the drug distributors were well aware that they were fueling an epidemic of opioid addiction, but were more concerned with their bottom line than restricting the flow of opioids," Manfield reports. "Meanwhile, defense attorneys have argued that drug distributors are just middlemen and that their actions did not cause the opioid crisis." Though it's unclear whether any of the defendants acted on specific advice in the memo, the prosecutors argued it illustrates the companies' willingness to prioritize profits over patient safety.

The memo is the latest eyebrow-raising document to come up in the trial. Earlier, a prosecutor questioned an executive about emails he got with parody songs calling West Virginians "pillbillies" who lived in "OxyContinville," Courtney Hessler reports for The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington.

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