Wednesday, April 24, 2019

In a national first, a major drug distributor and its former executives are criminally charged for worsening opioid crisis

"In a national first in the fight against the opioid crisis, a major drug distribution company, its former chief executive and another top executive have been criminally charged in New York," Tom Winter and Elisha Fieldstadt report for NBC News.

Rochester Drug Co-Operative, former CEO Laurence Doud III and former compliance chief William Pietruszewski were charged. The company, one of the top 10 drug distributors in the nation, was charged with conspiracy to violate narcotics laws, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and willfully failing to file suspicious-order reports with the Drug Enforcement Administration. It entered a plea agreement in the criminal case and a settlement in the civil case. Pietruszewski, charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and willfully failing to file suspicious order reports with the DEA, pleaded guilty under a cooperation agreement. Doud was charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to defraud the U.S.; if convicted, he faces a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence, Winter and Fieldstadt report.

The indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges that Doud "ordered subordinates to ignore red flags about certain pharmacy customers to maximize company revenues and his own pay, which more than doubled between 2012 and 2016 as the company's sales of drugs like oxycodone and fentanyl skyrocketed," Winter and Fieldstadt report. The indictment also alleges that "Doud and other top executives 'made the deliberate decision' not to investigate, monitor or alert federal regulators about pharmacy customers they knew were providing opioids to people who wanted them for non-medical uses."

Between 2012 and 2016, Rochester's sales of oxycodone pills grew from 4.7 million to 42.2 million, and their fentanyl sales grew from about 63,000 dosages to more than 1.3 million. In that time frame, the company identified about 8,300 suspicious orders but only reported four, Winter and Fieldstadt report.

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