A medical supply company that provides pharmaceuticals to prisons, including for executions. Its subsidiary Tradex provides materials for use in prison labor programs.
Cardinal Health, Inc. is one of the three largest medical distributors in the U.S., supplying almost 90% of U.S. hospitals, as well as state and private healthcare systems, pharmacies, and more. It sells pharmaceutical drugs throughout the U.S. and manufactures and distributes other medical products worldwide. Headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, Cardinal health reported $181.4 billion in revenue in 2022, making it the largest company in Ohio based on revenue.
Cardinal Health serves as a pharmaceutical wholesaler for many state prison systems across the U.S. These have included, for example, Departments of Corrections in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and Wisconsin, as well as the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Some of the company's contracts with state prison agencies were organized through the Minnesota Multistate Contracting Alliance for Pharmacy (MMCAP), a nationwide procurement group operated by the state of Minnesota.
Among the drugs that Cardinal Health provides to prisons are those used in executions. The company's role in facilitating the death penalty became public in 2011, when Sister Helen Prejean, the so-called "Dead Man Walking nun," asked it to recall a drug that it had provided to the Georgia Department of Corrections, which used it to develop a new protocol for lethal injections. Cardinal Health refused, stating that, as a distributor, it does not "play a part in the determination . . . regarding the use of the products." The company later decided to comply with restrictions imposed by multiple drug manufacturers who do not wish for their products to be sold to U.S. prisons for this reason. Implementing this policy has proven difficult, as states often do not disclose the purpose of a drug they purchase.
Additionally, Cardinal Health subsidiary Tradex International has provided materials that are used in prison labor programs. For example, from 2015 to 2017, Ohio Penal Industries (OPI) paid over $1.2 million to Tradex for its plastic bag film, which was used by incarcerated workers to make trash bags. A 2021 lawsuit also revealed that Tradex's rubber gloves have been used by incarcerated workers in Pennsylvania's prison labor programs.
Cardinal Health has also been widely litigated against for its role in the opioid epidemic. The company and its subsidiary Kinray have paid out millions of dollars in settlements for their role in facilitating the illegal distribution of opioids.