Department of Justice Wages Criminal Charges Against Big Pharma for the First Time

illustration of pills

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the United States government, through the Department of Justice (DOJ), publicly filed criminal charges against Rochester Drug Co-operative Inc (RDC), a privately-held New York-based retail pharmaceutical distributor, and its company executives under the premise of illegal distribution of narcotics.

53-year-old William Pietruszewski, RDC’s former compliance chief officer plead guilty to three criminal counts in light of the suits, according to the report by Reuters. More critically, 75-year-old Laurence Doud, RDC’s former CEO was indicted on federal charges following the government’s investigation into RDC’s relaxed drug distribution practices. With 25 years tenured, Doud is the first big pharma executive to face federal prosecution for alleged illegal distribution of narcotics and playing a role in stipulating an opioid epidemic across the nation.

“Under the direction of Doud, RDC supplied tens of millions of oxycodone, fentanyl, and other dangerous opioids to pharmacy customers that its own compliance personnel determined, and reported to Doud, was dispensing these drugs to individuals who had no legitimate medical need for them,” the official indictment says.

The Department of Justice alleges that between May 2012 and November 2016, the RDC permitted and ignored suspicious orders of drugs by pharmacy customers. Legally, the drug manufacturer is required to report suspicious orders and closely monitor the outflow of products. The DOJ alleged that RDC flagged 4 cases of unlawful drug distribution in a pool of 2,000 dubious cases.

According to the report by Reuters, RDC made financial gains through its relaxed distribution activities, boosting sales for the company and Doud at the time, who’s pay allegedly jumped by $1.5 million between 2012 and 2016.

Currently, Doud is looking to face a minimum of 10 years in prison on the allegation of drug conspiracy charges, according to the indictment.

His next hearing is scheduled for May 8.

What makes this case so significant is that it marks the U.S. government’s aggressive effort to curb the growing number of people addicted to and impacted by opioids, by honing in on the makers and distributors of prescription painkillers.

Following a recent suit against sixty medical professionals across the nation for illegally prescribing opioids in practice, the government’s crackdown on unlawful opioid distribution is looking more organized and relentless every day.