“First of its Kind”: Feds Bring Criminal Charges Against Pharma Distributor, Ceo in Opioid Case

The government is getting even more aggressive in fighting the opioid epidemic.  This week, for the first time, federal prosecutors brought felony charges against a major pharmaceutical distributor, its former CEO and another executive related to the opioid crisis.  The company is one of the country’s largest pharmaceutical distributors.  With this case, the Drug Enforcement Administration seeks to “send shock waves” through the industry.  This bold approach is the first of its kind for the opioid crisis, where the federal government is now asserting felony drug trafficking charges against a drug distributor and its executives, charges usually brought against drug dealers, cartels and other organized crime kingpins. 
Pharmaceutical distributors fill orders from pharmacies and have a duty to monitor and report anything suspicious, such as large orders, patterns and other signs that the orders are going to the opioid black market.  For years, federal and state authorities have been battling the opioid epidemic in civil courts for the most part, and imposing civil penalties against pharmaceutical distributors.  In announcing the charges, the Manhattan United States Attorney explicitly warned others, vowing that his prosecutors will “do everything in [their] power to combat this epidemic, from street-level dealers to the executives who illegally distribute drugs from their boardrooms.” 
Herman Law P.A. is closely monitoring this case and we expect more criminal prosecutions, as the government revs up its efforts and reaches up the chain to arrest owners and other high level company employees. The Federal and State governments are aggressively seeking new approaches to investigate and prosecute drug companies and professionals they feel are responsible for the continuing opioid crisis.   They are and will continue to use all of the vast government resources.  Individuals and corporations distributing or otherwise involved in the pharmaceutical industry are on the government’s radar and these charges could be a sign of where the prosecutors are heading next. 
In this case, the distributor entered into a non prosecution agreement, accepting responsibility and agreeing to pay a $20 million fine, along with taking other actions.  This agreement recognizes the criminal liability of the company, while also resolving the matter in a fair way and avoiding federal convictions and potential prison time.  But such non-prosecution consent decrees or agreements are given sparingly in federal court. At Herman Law, we understand that people and companies make mistakes.  If you are facing an investigation or being contacted by federal or state agencies, call us to discuss your case.