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News Release

August 26, 2019

Amid new DEA investigation, Burdick calls for Rep. Ami Bera
to donate almost $50,000 in tainted money from opioid companies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As the Sacramento Bee reported earlier this month, McKesson Corp. – California’s largest distributor of the highly addictive opioids oxycodone and hydrocodone – is again target of a federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigation for suspicious drug orders. In light of this, Congressional opponent Jeff Burdick has called on U.S. Rep. Ami Bera – a former doctor – to immediately return or donate all donations he has taken from McKesson and five other large opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Over the past seven years, these donations have totaled $46,850 to Dr. Bera. More than half ($24,350) came alone from the political action committees (PACs) operated by McKesson, who has also been among Dr. Bera’s largest donors the past two election cycles. Dr. Bera even accepted $4,350 from the McKesson a few months after McKesson agreed in 2017 to pay a record $150 million fine for failing to report suspicious opioid orders – the same charges for which it is again being investigated.

“It’s astonishing how much money a former doctor like Bera has taken from the largest companies blamed for so much addiction, death and pain in this country,” said Burdick, a Progressive who will be the first Democrat ever to primary Dr. Bera. “Basic decency calls for Bera to donate the full amount of these donations to local addiction recovery organizations.”

Not only has Bera accepted support for his political career from the Opioids Industry, but in 2016, he voted for a bill that kneecapped DEA enforcement power over Big Pharma. Once this was exposed on 60 Minutes and in The Washington Post, lawmakers claimed they never read the bill. But in the nearly four years since, Congress has yet to reinstitute DEA powers. 

Earlier this year, the National Safety Council announced deaths from opioid overdoses in the U.S. recently surpassed deaths from automobile accidents.

Newly released U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) data shows that from 2006 through 2012, America’s largest drug companies saturated the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills. In that time period, this contributed to nearly 100,000 U.S. deaths.

The six largest distributors of these drugs accounted for 75% of the market. Since 2013, Dr. Bera has accepted donations from PACs operated by five of them in the following amounts:

McKesson Corp. — $24,350

Walgreens — $8,000

AmerisourceBergen — $7,500

Cardinal Health — $4,000
CVS — ​$1,000

Last election cycle, Dr. Bera also took $1,000 each from opioids makers Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson.

All of Dr. Bera’s opioid-related donors were also named as defendants in a lawsuit file in May 2018 by the counties of Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and nine other northern California counties. That lawsuit has been consolidated with lawsuits by hundreds of other municipalities and states, and remains active in the U.S. District Court of Northern Ohio

In July of this year, the State of California also indicated it wants to revoke or suspend the wholesale license for a Sacramento-area facility run by AmerisourceBergen. It cited patterns of unusually large sales of opioid painkillers over several years. 

“Contributing to the opioid crisis is another kind of addiction that is often overlooked. That is the addiction of our political system to corporate and special interest donations,” Burdick said. “Dr. Bera’s opioid money is another example of a political system that so readily puts campaign cash ahead of basic concerns for the vast majority of the American public.”

Burdick explained this is why he is running on the most principled campaign finance pledge in the nation — to accept donations only from voters in his district. He is also running on an Election Reform Constitutional Amendment to remove 80% of the corrupting money from our elections, reverse the Citizens United ruling, end dark money and end gerrymandering.

A few other opioid stats, according to local and state figures:

  • In 2017, 1,882 Californians died of opioid overdoses.

  • Sacramento’s four-county area has been particularly hard hit, accounting for 14% of state deaths (258) while accounting for slightly less than 6% of the overall state population.

  • Local opioid overdose deaths reached a peak of 350 in 2014.

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