Their Parents Must Be Proud

We’ve been hit over the head for the past year or two with the news that the U.S. is in the throes of an opioid crisis:  the overuse and abuse not just of illegal drugs but of perfectly legal drugs that are highly addictive and, in many cases, far more medicine than most of us need to deal with whatever problem inspired our doctors to prescribe them in the first place.  We can’t, however, just turn off the spigot:  people are addicted and can’t be expected to stop just because someone tells them it’s bad for them.

Local governments, state governments, and the federal government are all looking for new ways to deal with the opioid crisis.  They’re floundering, not necessarily for political reasons but because it’s a genuinely difficult problem to solve.

In New York state they’ve decided to tax the companies that are getting rich selling opioids to raise money to fight the epidemic.  Maybe it’s a good idea and maybe it’s not, maybe it’ll work and maybe it won’t, but the state’s trying to do something.  There’s a certain logic to this tax, and not simply because these companies developed these drugs – which is, after all, what drug companies do – but because there’s pretty compelling evidence that the drug companies have done a great deal over the years to a) urge people who don’t need them to demand them from their doctors; b) convince doctors that these drugs are perfectly safe when they knew they were not; and c) encourage doctors to prescribe them to their patients.  New York hopes to raise about $100 million a year through this tax on pharmaceutical manufacturers as well as drug distributors:  no, not some scumbag standing on street corners and selling them out of his car trunk but big companies that don’t actually develop and manufacture drugs but that buy the drugs from the manufacturers and sell them to willing buyers.  (Okay, so they’re scumbags in $600 suits selling them out of shipping containers.)  The manufacturers and pushers, er, distributors, are challenging the law, as is certainly their right, but nothing’s been decided yet.

But Amerisource Bergen, one of those drug distributors, is having none of it. It’s not waiting for the political or legal processes to do their thing, as it informed Wall Street analysts recently (as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer):

“Recently, we changed our operating business model in terms of how we receive opioid prescription drug inventory in our New York distribution centers,” outgoing chief financial officer Tim Guttman said during the company’s quarterly earnings call Tuesday. “This change essentially eliminates our New York opioid tax liability going forward.”

In other words, the hell with the law, the hell with the opioid crisis, the hell with the people who’re hooked on these poisons, and the hell with efforts to combat the crisis.

So Amerisource Bergen must really be hurting for money to do something this sleazy, right?

Hardly.

The company had revenue of $153 billion last year and that generated $4.5 billion in profits.

And its New York opioid tax bill?  $22 million from January 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018.

That $22 million represents 0.014 percent of the company’s revenue and 0.49 percent of its profits.

The Amerisource Bergen executives who thought up this plan must be sooooooo proud of themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

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