Rallying in Philadelphia, Teamsters denounce drugmaker as fueling opioid abuse

     Teamsters concerned about opioid addiction rally outside the Sofitel Hotel in Center City where pharmaceutical company AmerisourceBergen was having its annual shareholders meeting. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Teamsters concerned about opioid addiction rally outside the Sofitel Hotel in Center City where pharmaceutical company AmerisourceBergen was having its annual shareholders meeting. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Angry over the prescription drug abuse epidemic, Teamsters union members demonstrated Thursday outside AmerisourceBergen’s annual shareholders meeting at the Sofitel Hotel in Philadelphia.

    The company is a major prescription drug distributor, and Teamsters accuse it and other drug wholesalers of fueling the epidemic of opioid abuse.

    “AmerisourceBergen, America’s hurting!” chanted around 25 protesters, many of them Teamsters.

    “We want to know what are the protocols, processes that the big distributors have to ensure that they’re not flooding our communities with drugs that are very highly harmful, highly addictive and if uncontrolled, can lead to addiction and possible death,” said Teamster Louis Milizia.

    A West Virginia lawsuit alleged that AmerisourceBergen and other drug wholesalers continued filling large pill orders, despite federal rules requiring them to question suspiciously big ones.

    Milizia contended the company and several others sent 9 million pills over two years to a West Virginia town of just 400 people.

    The company settled the case for $16 million, denying any wrongdoing.

    Teamster Rocky Bryan said he’s seen how opioid abuse has hurt fellow union members.

    “We see it time after time, they’re getting addicted. Everywhere from the young guys, all the way from 50-, 60-year-old men who are addicted on this,” Bryan said. “In our local, we’re putting people away in rehab because of this. And, from here, it goes to heroin with a lot of people.

    “We appreciate the comments [Thursday] and are working with leaders across the health care spectrum to do our part to address the issue of opioid abuse,” AmerisourceBergen said in a statement.

    The company added that it has “offered to meet directly with representatives from the Teamsters to share ideas.”

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