Big pharma executives mock ‘pillbillies’ in emails

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Chris Zimmerman, a manager at AmerisourceBergen, appeared to be calling some drug addicts 'pillbillies' in an email to his colleagues.

Chris Zimmerman, a director at AmerisourceBergen, appeared to call some drug addicts ‘pillbillies’ in an email to his colleagues

According to a West Virginia prosecutor, top officials at a leading drug distribution company sent emails denigrating those who had become addicted to their products.

The emails were brought forward by Cabell County attorney Paul Farrell Jr. in a federal lawsuit that pitted county and Huntington City officials against the country’s three largest drug distributors – who they claim are the opioid epidemic in the state.

In the emails, AmerisourceBergen executives wrote rhymes and songs poking fun at those who became addicted to opioid painkillers.

An email in 2011 from a Joseph Tomkiewicz, who was working as a business researcher for the company at the time, contained a rhyme to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song in which a ‘poor mountain climber’ named Jed ‘could barely feed his habit’ and traveled to Florida to purchase ‘Hillbilly Heroin’ – a nickname for OxyContin.

At the time, Florida was known for lax prescriptions for painkillers, as doctors were able to prescribe and dispense a large number of opioids at once.

Another rhyme, this time to the tune of a Jimmy Buffett song, described Kentucky as ‘OxyContinville’ due to the high use of drugs in the state.

And when Kentucky introduced new regulations to address the opioid epidemic, an Amerisource regional director said, according to her LinkedIn profile, wrote ‘One of the hillbillies must have learned to read :-)’

And yet another email that Farrell presented to a judge in Cabell County contained a mock-up cereal with the word “smack” under the words “OxyContin for kids.”

“You’re just a joke today,” replied a colleague.

Chris Zimmerman, the senior executive responsible for enforcing AmerisourceBergen’s legal obligation to stop the supply of opioids to pharmacies suspected of dispensing suspiciously large amounts of drugs, also emailed colleagues after Florida moved into 2011 passed legislation harshing pharmacies, saying ‘Beware’. George ‘and Alabama, here will be a maximum exodus of pillbillies north.’

US District Judge David Faber denied introducing further emails as evidence.

Another director, Joseph Tomkiewicz, wrote a poem about a man named Jed who was addicted to painkillers to the tune of the theme song The Beverly Hillbillies

Another director, Joseph Tomkiewicz, wrote a poem about a man named Jed who was addicted to painkillers to the tune of the theme song The Beverly Hillbillies

When Kentucky introduced new regulations to stop the spread of opioids, Cathy Marcum, Amerisource regional director, wrote,

When Kentucky introduced new regulations to stop the spread of opioids, Cathy Marcum, Amerisource regional director, wrote, “One of the hillbillies must have learned how to read :-)”

In court, Zimmerman apologized for the email, saying the term “ pillbillies ” referred to drug dealers, not the patients.

“I shouldn’t have sent the email,” he said Mountain State in the spotlight, but added that the emails Farrell presented had been “ taken out of context. ”

He said they were just a way of venting frustration as the company worked hard to tackle the opioid epidemic, The Guardian reported.

Zimmerman acknowledged the “devastating effect” of the opioid epidemic, but declined responsibility and blamed the US Drug Enforcement Agency and lower-level employees at his company.

He claimed that if the company stopped deliveries, it would harm the patients who really needed the drugs.

Farrell, meanwhile, said the emails reflected a culture of contempt among one of the country’s largest drug distributors.

“It’s a pattern of behavior of those people who are charged with protecting our community, and they circulate emails disparaging hillbillies,” he said.

Over the course of nine years, three drug distributors – Amerisource Bergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health – have delivered approximately 100 million doses of opioids to Cabell County, which has approximately 90,000 residents.

According to the Mountain State Spotlight, certain small-town pharmacies received more than 100,000 opioid pills in one month.

According to a West Virginia prosecutor, top officials at a leading drug distribution company sent emails denigrating those who had become addicted to their products.  Robert C Byrd Courthouse of the USA, Charleston

According to a West Virginia prosecutor, top officials at a leading drug distribution company sent emails denigrating those who had become addicted to their products. Robert C Byrd Courthouse of the USA, Charleston

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