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big pharma

Pharmaceutical executive apologizes to Congress for role in opioid crisis: 'I am deeply sorry'

Pharmaceutical executives appeared before Congress on Tuesday to answer questions about a congressional investigation into drug companies' role in the nation's opioid epidemic, The Washington Post reports.

A Cardinal Health executive, George Barrett, apologized for his drug company's slow response to the unprecedented influx of prescription opioids to small towns in West Virginia, while Joseph Mastandrea of Miami-Luken admitted that his company had worsened the opioid crisis.

Current and former leaders of McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and H.D. Smith are also testifying in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The panel has been probing the pharmaceutical companies in light of discoveries that they shipped 12.3 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to small pharmacies in West Virginia, one of the states that has been hit hardest by the drug epidemic.

Most executives denied that their companies were at fault for the opioid crisis, even as lawmakers expressed anger that the companies hadn't taken responsibility as their products spiraled out of control, reports The Washington Post. The pharmaceutical industry supplies distributors with medications, but does not prescribe drugs or sell to individual patients. The executives who appeared before the panel Tuesday represent companies that make up more than 85 percent of the country's prescription drug shipments.

"With the benefit of hindsight, I wish we had moved faster and asked a different set of questions," said Barrett of Cardinal Health's lack of action in West Virginia. "I am deeply sorry we did not." Read more at The Washington Post.