On Tuesday, the U.S. government filed its first criminal charges against a major drug distributor and company executives over their roles in the nation’s opioid epidemic.
One of the 10 largest U.S. drug distributors, Rochester Drug Co-operative Inc (RDC), agreed to pay 420 million and enter a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve charges it turned a blind eye to thousands of suspicious orders for opioids, as part of a years-long drive to bolster profit.
Laurence Doud, who had been RDC’s chief executive for more than 25 years, was charged with two conspiracy counts, and according to his lawyer plans to plead not guilty. Another former executive, compliance chief William Pietruszewski, cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to three criminal counts.
The case marks a new U.S. government effort to curtail the growing number of addictions to oxycodone and other prescription painkillers, which authorities said are often used by people with no legitimate medical need for them.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids — including prescription painkillers and heroin — played a role in 47,600 U.S. deaths in 2017. Opioid makers and distributors face hundreds of lawsuits by U.S. states, counties and cities accusing them of using deceptive marketing to sell the painkillers