Drug company executives hit with criminal charges over opioid epidemic
THE US government yesterday filed its first criminal charges against a major drug distributor and company executives over their alleged roles in fuelling the nation's opioid epidemic by putting profits ahead of patients' safety.
Rochester Drug Co-operative (RDC), one of the 10 largest US drug distributors, agreed to pay a $20m (€17.83) fine and enter a five-year deferred prosecution agreement to resolve charges it turned a blind eye to thousands of suspicious orders for opioids.
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"We made mistakes," a RDC spokesman said. "We accept responsibility for those mistakes."
Laurence Doud, RDC's CEO for more than 25 years, was charged in an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court with conspiring to distribute illegal narcotics and conspiring to defraud the United States.
His lawyer said Mr Doud, 75, of New Smyrna, Florida, plans to plead not guilty. Mr Doud is expected to be released on bail.
Another former executive, compliance chief William Pietruszewski, 53, of Oak Ridge, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to three criminal counts and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
The case marks a new US effort to curtail the growing number of addictions to opioids, including oxycodone and other prescription painkillers.
Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, played a role in a record 47,600 US overdose deaths in 2017, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
"This country is in the midst of a prescription drug abuse epidemic," US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said at a Manhattan news conference. "This epidemic has been driven by greed. As alleged, Doud cared more about profits than the laws intended to protect human life."