Emails show AmerisourceBergen exec calling West Virginians 'pillbillies'

As the opioid epidemic was causing thousands of overdose deaths in West Virginia, AmerisourceBergen executives were sending company emails of parody songs disparaging the state's people, according to emails shown May 13 in a U.S. district court in Charleston.

Huntington, W.Va., and the surrounding Cabell County presented opening arguments May 3 for a federal trial in which they are seeking more than $1 billion from opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health. The lawsuit alleges the distributors let their highly addictive opioids flood pharmacies, causing dramatic spikes in addiction and overdoses. 

In an email shown in court May 13, Chris Zimmerman, AmerisourceBergen's senior vice president of corporate security and regulatory affairs, shared a lyrical parody of the theme song for "The Beverly Hillbillies," with references to "a poor mountaineer" and "pillbillies." Another email contained lyrics for a song named "OxyContinVille" (a parody of Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville") describing driving up from Kentucky to buy pills, according to Mountain State Spotlight.

Another email showed that Cathy Marcum, one of AmerisourceBergen's regional directors of  corporate security and regulatory affairs, wrote "One of the hillbilly’s must have learned how to read :-)” in response to a colleague's email about Kentucky's new opioid regulations.

Mr. Zimmerman apologized in court for some of his words, saying the emails were taken out of context, according to Mountain State Spotlight.

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