Teamsters Challenge Big Pharma Over Opioid Deaths

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Standing before fellow Teamsters in June, Travis Bornstein shared the story of his 23-year-old son, an accomplished golfer and bodybuilder who became addicted to prescription pain pills after elbow surgery and eventually succumbed to a heroin overdose. For the next two hours at the national meeting in Las Vegas, truckers, dockworkers and warehousemen told of losing aunts, nephews and fathers to addiction. Newly focused on an issue that is ravaging its members, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters today plans to challenge one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical wholesalers, demanding that AmerisourceBergen Corp. investigate its own sales practices and potential supply chain diversions, and factor compliance into its executives’ pay, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The company, ranked 12th by revenue on the Fortune 500, is holding its annual shareholder meeting in Philadelphia, and the union pension and benefits funds own an undisclosed share. Any shareholder can attend the closed meeting. Representatives said they will question the board and hold an afternoon rally outside. More than 140 Americans a day fatally overdosed on drugs of all kinds in 2015, with Pennsylvania’s death rate rising 20 percent, twice the national average. Frustrated over the inability of government and medical institutions to reverse the trend, advocates have been increasingly going after the companies that earn profits from making and distributing pharmaceuticals, particularly opioids. AmerisourceBergen is one of three wholesalers that dominate the U.S.  market. It distributed 475 million prescription opioid pills in Pennsylvania alone in 2015. The Teamsters have demanded that the biggest wholesaler, McKesson Corp., take back millions of dollars in pay from its chief executive, arguing that the company’s value had been damaged by its role in the opioid crisis.

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