Saturday 6 May 2023

Ohio Democrat Senator Took Thousands Of Dollars In Donations From Pharma Companies At Center Of Opioid Crisis

 Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took hundreds of thousands of dollars from three drug companies at the center of the opioid epidemic in the U.S.

According to FEC financial reports cited by the New York Post, Brown raked in more than $200,000 from political action committees associated with Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen since 2003. The three pharmaceutical giants paid out a $26 billion settlement to settle thousands of individual lawsuits from states and local governments. Ohio is also one of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

According to FEC filings, Brown took in a total of $144,500 in contributions to his campaign and leadership PAC, America Works PAC. He raised $85,000 from Cardinal Health, $56,500 from AmerisourceBergen, and $1,500 from McKesson. The latest donation was a $2,500 donation from Cardinal Health on September 21. The New York Post further reported that he took in $54,100 from lobbyists who worked for the three pharmaceutical distributors, including $5,600, the legal maximum, from a McKesson lobbyist in 2020 and again in 2021.

Separately, individual employees donated another $40,025. Cardinal Health Chief Information Officer Mark MacNaughton was a frequent small-dollar donor. Former Cardinal Health CEO George S. Barrett donated a total of $15,400 between 2011 and 2019, all in large amounts. Theodore Frank of McKesson donated $1,000 to his 2018 campaign. Rita Ersfeld Norton of AmerisourceBergen gave him $1,000 in 2017.

Together, Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen account for 90% of the U.S. supply chains for drugs and medical supplies. But the companies have allegedly been complicit in the proliferation of opioids; the New York Post reported that for more than a decade, the three pharma giants failed to track suspicious orders or increases in opioid use among purchasers, in spite of doctors potentially criminally overprescribing the drugs.

The three companies, along with Johnson & Johnson, settled a $26 billion lawsuit with 49 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and thousands of municipalities in February 2022. In a joint statement in February, the three companies announced that, beginning on April 2, 2022, they would pay out more than $19.5 billion over the next 18 years: Amerisource is set to pay out $6.1 billion; Cardinal Health, $6 billion; and McKesson, $7.4 billion. The settlement dealt with 46 of the 49 states; Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington State refused the settlement. West Virginia settled previously. The Cherokee Nation also settled separately, and the remaining Native Americans had reached an agreement in principle at the time.

The New York Post also reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration settled a $150 million payout for violating federal controlled substance laws in 2017, the largest penalty in the DEA’s history.

Ohio had an estimated 5,068 deaths from drug overdoses in 2021, the fifth-highest in the nation, according to the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System. The CDC reported 107,622 deaths from drug overdoses in 2021, the highest number on record, as The Daily Wire reported last year. The New York Times reported at the time that synthetic opioids accounted for 71,000 deaths.

In 2017, Brown himself called the opioid crisis “one of biggest public health emergencies in my lifetime [and] all too often addiction starts in [the] medicine cabinet.”

Brown is running for a fourth term in the Senate in 2024. But he faces an uphill battle in a state that is rapidly turning red: former President Trump won the state by eight points in 2020; Republican Senator J.D. Vance won the state by six points in 2022. So far, State Senator Matt Dolan and businessman Bernie Moreno have entered the Republican primary.

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