In a groundbreaking case, federal prosecutors have charged a pharmaceutical company with drug trafficking for their role in the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis.
The company, Rochester Drug Cooperative, was charged with “knowingly and intentionally” violating federal drug laws. The company distributed “highly addictive opioids to pharmacy customers that it knew were being sold and used illicitly,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
“This prosecution is the first of its kind: executives of a pharmaceutical distributor and the distributor itself have been charged with drug trafficking, trafficking the same drugs that are fueling the opioid epidemic that is ravaging this country,” said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in a statement.
“Our Office will do everything in its power to combat this epidemic, from street-level dealers to the executives who illegally distribute drugs from their boardrooms,” he added.
RDC was also charged with failing to report thousands of suspicious sales of controlled substances such as oxycodone and fentanyl to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
“Today’s charges should send shock waves throughout the pharmaceutical industry reminding them of their role as gatekeepers of prescription medication,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Ray Donovan in a statement. “This historic investigation unveiled a criminal element of denial in RDC’s compliance practices, and holds them accountable for their egregious non-compliance according to the law.”
The company admitted its wrongdoing.
“We made mistakes,” the company said in a statement. “RDC understands that these mistakes, directed by former management, have serious consequences.”
“One element of the opioid epidemic is a dramatic increase in the volume of prescriptions for opioids and all narcotics,” the statement continued. “With that dramatic volume increase came an increase in our business, resulting in an increase in orders we should have identified as suspicious order, which we failed to report to DEA.”
The opioid epidemic kills 130 Americans every day according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through overdoses and other abuse.
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