Major US Pharmaceutical Distributor Faces Federal Criminal Charges. They Have To Do With The Nation’s Opioid Crisis

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Evie Fordham Politics and Health Care Reporter
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The sixth largest pharmaceutical distributor in the U.S. was charged Tuesday for contributing to the opioid crisis, conspiring to distribute drugs and defrauding the federal government.

The prosecution of Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) is “the first of its kind,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement Tuesday. Two former company executives are also charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, according to the Department of Justice.

“[E]xecutives 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,” Berman’s statement continued. “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.” (RELATED: 60 People Including 31 Doctors Charged For Allegedly Prescribing Millions Of Pain Pills Illegally)

RDC is one of the 10 largest drug distributors in the nation. The company “knowingly and intentionally violated the federal narcotics laws by distributing dangerous, highly addictive opioids to pharmacy customers that it knew were being sold and used illicitly,” according to the DOJ.

Pill bottles are arranged on a shelf. Shutterstock image via sirtravelsalot

Pill bottles are arranged on a shelf. Shutterstock image via sirtravelsalot

“We made mistakes,” Jeff Eller, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement according to The New York Times, “and RDC understands that these mistakes, directed by former management, have serious consequences.”

RDC’s acting chief executive John Kinney appeared on behalf of the company in a U.S. District Court in Manhattan Tuesday morning, reported The NYT. He signed a deferred prosecution agreement by which the company essentially admitted to the crimes.

The two former executives charged are Laurence Doud, 75, and William Pietruszewski, 52. Doud was RDC’s former CEO and is charged on one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. He could get up to life in prison on the first count, according to the DOJ.

Pietruszewski served as the company’s chief of compliance and could get life in prison after being charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances among other charges. He pleaded guilty to the charges pursuant to a cooperation agreement Friday, according to the DOJ.

Berman’s office also filed a lawsuit against RDC alleging it knowingly failed to report thousands of suspicious orders of controlled substances to the DEA, even though it was legally obligated to.

The federal criminal charges come after 60 people including doctors and pharmacists were charged for allegedly prescribing opioids illegally in several states, the DOJ announced April 17.

Follow Evie on Twitter @eviefordham.

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