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Cardinal Health Shakes Up Leadership Amid Pressure Over Opioids

Kiichiro Sato
Associated Press
Dublin-based Cardinal Health is making a leadership chance as lawsuits surrounding the opioid crisis mount.

Amid increasing pressure over the opiate epidemic, Dublin-based drug distributor Cardinal Health is making a leadership change. In a quarterly earnings call, CEO and chairman George Barrett announced he'll turn the CEO job over to the company's chief financial officer Mike Kaufmann. 

Barrett will remain chairman for another year

Cardinal Health is being sued by some Ohio cities and other states for distributing millions of painkillers into some of the areas hit hardest by the opioid crisis. Barrett said Cardinal has been fighting opiate addiction for nearly a decade.

The Teamsters union is one of the largest investors in Cardinal Health. Citing the opioid crisis, it led an effort heading into this week’s annual meeting to split the top leadership roles of chairman and CEO. 

In a quarterly earnings call on Monday, Barrett addressed the opioid crisis directly, calling it “large, complicated, tragic and personal.”

But he insisted his company is doing its part to control opioids ending up on the black market.

“As a wholesale distributor, we do not manufacture, promote, market or prescribe these drugs," Barrett said. "We do however take very seriously our responsibilities to serve our healthcare system. Our anti-diversion systems and controls are substantial, they are well-funded and they are best in class.

Barrett said the company’s plans to invest more in the education of doctors, pharmacists and students are running slightly behind, but they will be fulfilled this year.

Cardinal was the focus of a Washington Post/60 Minutes investigation on the opioid crisis last month.