Q: The media has reported figures that demonstrate the large quantities of opioid pain pills shipped into some small cities and municipalities. Didn’t AmerisourceBergen realize these numbers were excessive? If you were doing everything possible to address the opioid crisis, why did you keep shipping?
A: Quotas for production of controlled substances, like opioid-based pain medicines, are set by the DEA in consultation with pharmaceutical manufacturers and are intended to represent clinical need.
According to the DEA Controlled Substances Act Registration Database, there are more than 800 registered pharmaceutical distributors and distributor locations throughout the United States. The total quantity of opioid pills shipped to a certain location does not come from one single distributor. AmerisourceBergen’s systems can identify whether one particular customer orders a "suspicious" quantity of product. However, we do not know the total quantity of medicines that are being shipped to a given locale because we do not have access to information on what other wholesalers are distributing. The DEA is the only entity that can access the total quantity of medication distributed to a specific geography or recipient.
Q: How much profit does AmerisourceBergen make from opioid distribution?
A: Opioid-based products represent a small fraction of what we distribute and a very small part of our total business. Distributors have tiny profit margins so we have invested heavily in controls and systems to manage these products. No AmerisourceBergen associate receives any incentive-based compensation that targets the sale of controlled substances.
Q: Did AmerisourceBergen advocate for the passage of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act (S. 483)?
A: Rigorous compliance with all applicable regulatory mandates, laws, procedures and protocols is a foundational underpinning of AmerisourceBergen’s longstanding success as a pharmaceutical distributor. Our track record indicates that we have always complied with regulation and enforcement efforts to the absolute best of our understanding and ability.
We have continuously advocated for legislation that provides greater detail and clarity around the DEA’s expectations and demands on our company and others like it, and how we could and should execute in return. The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act (S. 483) sought that clarity. It was developed with the intention of increasing transparency and enhancing cooperation while keeping the DEA fully empowered. Much evidence supports that it has. To the extent it can be proven that there were any unintended consequences of the legislation, including preventing the DEA from doing its job, we wholeheartedly favor it being reevaluated.
It should be noted that AmerisourceBergen has always supported the DEA taking more steps – not fewer – to regulate opioids, including limiting how many are to be manufactured.
Q: Why don’t you stop distributing opioids?
A: AmerisourceBergen is in the business of improving healthcare. As a purpose-driven organization, we are united in our responsibility to create healthier futures for the individuals who, consciously or not, rely on us to maintain an optimal quality of life. To this end, we strongly believe it is our responsibility to create highly efficient and safe access to medications. Stopping or severely limiting the distribution of opioids would mean that individuals who legitimately need them to manage pain — including cancer patients, veterans, or people recovering from major surgery — would most likely experience difficulty obtaining them.
AmerisourceBergen’s Chairman, President and CEO Steve Collis has shared very detailed and personal insights on this topic. Click here to read the article.
Q: AmerisourceBergen Corporation has noticeably augmented its community outreach initiatives and charitable giving to help combat the opioid crisis. Is this directly correlated to increased public scrutiny?
A: AmerisourceBergen Corporation’s guiding principle is that we are united in our responsibility to create healthier futures. Being part of the solution is one of the primary ways in which AmerisourceBergen fulfills that purpose. As an accountable and conscientious healthcare organization, AmerisourceBergen feels it has a responsibility to help address the national issue of opioid misuse.
The community outreach and philanthropic initiatives AmerisourceBergen Corporation has implemented are part of a multifaceted approach designed to help address the epidemic. The primary recipient of AmerisourceBergen Corporation’s charitable giving is the AmerisourceBergen Foundation, a not-for-profit organization established in 2014 exclusively for charitable and educational purposes, including supporting the communities in which AmerisourceBergen associates live and work.
The efforts of AmerisourceBergen Corporation and the AmerisourceBergen Foundation to support municipalities and other non-profits addressing the opioid crisis have grown commensurately as needs have increased.