State treasurers demand accountability for opioid crisis from nation’s largest drug distributor

Cole Lauterbach
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Posted: Jul 27, 2017 5:38 PM

Three state treasurers threatened the nation’s largest drug distributor with divestment of funds if it didn’t become more accountable for its role in the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs, along with treasurers from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, wrote a letter to McKesson Corporation’s’s board earlier this week, saying that they will divest their assets in the company if McKesson doesn’t begin to do its part in preventing prescription painkiller abuse.

“They have been marketing and distributing these painkillers that are leading to the opioid crisis in Illinois and throughout the country,” Frerichs said. “We expect those that we invest in to be responsible partners in helping to end this crisis, not profit from it.”

Investors voted for one of the treasurers’ demands Wednesday in their annual meeting, saying they will split the positions of CEO and board chair once their current one leaves. As to the treasurers’ other demands, McKesson said in a news release that “the company is doing everything it can to help address this crisis in close partnership with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other organizations across the supply chain.”

“We take the feedback seriously and will carefully consider the input received – making changes where necessary – so that we can continue to best serve our customers and deliver long-term value for our shareholders,” said John H. Hammergren, McKesson chairman and chief executive officer.

The meeting took place near Dallas amid a protest by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. They were demanding the same split in duties but also demanded a clawback of compensation from executives they say profited on the opioid epidemic.

“The country’s largest drug distributor cannot get away with ballooning executive pay and failures in oversight as Americans die every day from opioid addiction,” said Teamsters General Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall.