Economy & Business, Health & Environment

Pharma Execs Mocked ‘Pillbillies’ Amid Opioid Epidemic

Executives at one of America’s leading drug distributors shared emails mocking “pillbillies” during the height of the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The emails, dating from 2011 and 2012, were shared during the trial of three of the country’s biggest drug distributors in Charleston, West Virginia. AmerisourceBergen, McKesson, and Health Inc are currently defending themselves against a lawsuit brought by the city of Huntington and Cabell County, which has claimed that they are responsible for fuelling the opioid epidemic.

Farrell put the emails forth on Thursday, when Chris Zimmerman, the executive for AmerisourceBergen, took the stand for the second day. In one email, Zimmerman shared a parody version of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” entitled “The Beverly Pillbillies,” the lyrics of which make fun of a “poor mountaineer” addicted to opioids who drives down to Florida to get his fix. Another song, “Oxycontinville,” parodied the famous Jimmy Buffett song “Margaritaville,” had a similar lyrical theme, but the trip instead ended in Kentucky.

In a third email, one member of Zimmerman’s team responded to the new regulations brought by Kentucky against the distribution of opioids. “One of the hillbilly’s [sic] must have learned how to read :-),” the team member wrote, with no sense of irony regarding her own typographical error. Zimmerman apologized in court for the content of the emails, including the term “pillbillies,” but he claimed that that term was meant to refer to the opioid dealers, not the users themselves. He added that he shouldn’t have sent the offending email, but the corporate culture of AmerisourceBergen was of the “highest caliber.” Read more…

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