A rare criminal charge has been brought against former executives at a company who helped pushed opioid pain medications across the U.S., helping to fuel the national opioid addiction crisis, according to the Washington Post.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors in Cincinnati, OH filed charges against the company Miami-Luken and two of its former top executives. This is the second time that a distributor has been charged in the past two months, but it’s still uncommon for executives to face criminal charges for drug distribution.
“There’s a need, in my opinion, to devote sufficient charges right here and now to stop the dying,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin C. Glassman said in a statement.
Former Miami-Luken president Anthony Rattini and former compliance officer James Barclay were charged with knowingly distributing opioids for other than medical purposes. Two pharmacists in West Virginia, Devonna Miller-West and Samuel R. Ballengee, were also charged. They could all face up to 20 years in prison.
The prosecutors’ indictment says that between 2011 and 2015 the company ignored “obvious signs” that drugs it distributed were being bought illegally. The company allegedly sent 4.9 million pills to one pharmacy in Oceana, WV, which has a population of 1,394. It also allegedly sent 6 million pills to a pharmacy in Williamson, WV, a town with a population of 2,800. The company apparently sent 750,000 pills to another pharmacist who they allegedly knew was under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
From the Post:
Glassman said investigators found “many overdose deaths that could arguably be linked to the conduct” of people accused in the conspiracy, but did not obtain enough evidence to charge anyone.
The conspirators “unlawfully enriched themselves” by “distributing and dispensing large amounts of opioids to known pill mills,” prosecutors charge. The conduct continued, the indictment alleges, even after warnings from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Miami-Luken was only one small player in the opioid epidemic, but it provided pills to many areas that are hardest hit by the crisis, like Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee.
Pharmaceutical distributors are legally required to alert the DEA if they receive suspicious purchases. But many did not, as opioid pills flooded the country.
In April, criminal charges were brought against another company, Rochester Drug Cooperative, for similarly failing to inform the DEA of suspicious purchases. In May, former Insys Therapeutics founder John Kapoor was found guilty of racketeering conspiracy in another opioid case. Later that month, Teva Pharmaceuticals reached an $85 million settlement with Oklahoma for its involvement in the epidemic.