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CEO Says He Regrets Cardinal Didn't Spot Opioid Abuse Patterns Sooner But Denies Responsibility

photo of George Barrett Cardinal health CEO
Cardinal Health Chairman George Barrett testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

Editor's note: The headline on this article has been changed to clarify Barrett's statement.

The chairman of Ohio-based drug distributor Cardinal Health apologized to members of Congress Tuesday. George Barrett joined four other drug-company executives in testifying about their role in the opioid crisis.

In a scene bringing back images of Big Tobacco CEOs under oath, Barrett and four other drug-company leaders offering differing takes on how they sent millions of painkiller pills into parts of West Virginia. Barrett addressed shipments to two pharmacies that prosecutors call pill mills.

“With the benefit of hindsight, I wish we had moved faster and asked a different set of questions. I’m deeply sorry that we did not.”

But when repeatedly asked if Cardinal’s actions contributed to the opioid epidemic, Barrett told the House subcommittee, Barrett said, “No sir, I do not believe that we contributed to the opioid crisis.”

Moments later, the board chair of Springboro-based drug distributor Miami-Luken told members that his company did contribute to the opioid crisis. Cardinal faces more than 300 lawsuits from state and local governments for how it distributed pain pills.