Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat representing Ohio, has been accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from pharmaceutical companies responsible for fueling the opioid crisis in his state. The three companies – Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – have been accused of failing to track suspicious orders or increases in opioid use among purchasers, despite doctors potentially criminally overprescribing the drugs. The crisis has affected Ohioans from all walks of life, and the devastation it has caused is immeasurable. And yet, Senator Brown accepted large sums of money from these companies, leaving many to wonder: is he complicit in the crisis too?
The three pharmaceutical giants paid out a $26 billion settlement to settle thousands of individual lawsuits from states and local governments. This report will dive deeper into Brown’s campaign contributions, his ties to the opioid crisis perpetrators, and the impact of their actions on Ohio.
Ohio has been one of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. According to the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System, there were 5,068 drug overdose deaths in Ohio in 2021, the fifth-highest in the nation. Despite the devastating impact of the crisis on Ohioans, Senator Sherrod Brown has been accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from three drug companies at the center of the opioid epidemic in the U.S.
Brown received over $200,000 from political action committees associated with Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen since 2003, according to FEC financial reports cited by the New York Post. The three pharmaceutical giants paid out a $26 billion settlement to settle thousands of individual lawsuits from states and local governments. This raises concerns about whether Brown’s actions have contributed to the rise of opioid addiction and overdose deaths in Ohio.
Brown also took in $54,100 from lobbyists who worked for the three pharmaceutical distributors, including $5,600, the legal maximum, from a McKesson lobbyist in 2020 and again in 2021. Additionally, individual employees donated another $40,025, with Cardinal Health Chief Information Officer Mark MacNaughton being a frequent small-dollar donor. Former Cardinal Health CEO George S. Barrett donated a total of $15,400 between 2011 and 2019, all in large amounts.
The three companies, along with Johnson & Johnson, settled a $26 billion lawsuit with 49 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and thousands of municipalities in February 2022. However, Ohio, one of the states hardest hit by the crisis, is not satisfied. The settlement dealt with 46 of the 49 states; Alabama, Oklahoma, and Washington State refused the settlement. The Cherokee Nation also settled separately, and the remaining Native Americans had reached an agreement in principle at the time.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of their role in the opioid epidemic, Brown continued to take donations from the pharma giants. Brown is running for a fourth term in the Senate in 2024. However, he faces an uphill battle in a state that is rapidly turning red: former President Trump won the state by eight points in 2020, and Republican Senator J.D. Vance won the state by six points in 2022. Ohioans must hold their representatives accountable for their actions and demand that they prioritize the health and well-being of their constituents over corporate interests.
In the wake of the devastating opioid crisis that has ravaged Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown’s ties to the pharmaceutical companies at the center of the epidemic raise serious questions about his judgment and priorities. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the role these companies played in fueling the crisis, Brown continued to accept large sums of money from them. Ohioans deserve representatives who prioritize the health and well-being of their constituents over corporate interests. As the state heads into the 2024 Senate election, it remains to be seen whether Ohioans will hold Brown accountable for his actions and demand real change from their elected officials.