The U.S. government filed a civil lawsuit accusing the massive drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp of contributing to fueling the nation’s deadly opioid crisis.
The Department of Justice has said AmerisourceBergen contributed to the deadly opioid epidemic by repeatedly failing to report suspicious orders of prescription painkillers. AmerisourceBergen is one of the three largest drug distributors in America.
DOJ officials said the company failed to report the diversion of “hundreds of thousands” of prescription opioid medications shipped to pharmacies.
The addiction crisis has killed more than a million people in the U.S., with fatal overdoses claiming 107,000 lives last year alone.
The Department of Justice said the drug distributor and two units violated their legal obligation to resolve suspicious activity in customer orders or alert the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to suspicious customer behavior.
The lawsuit says that since 2014 AmerisourceBergen has repeatedly refused or negligently failed to flag suspicious orders by pharmacy customers when it had reason to know that opioids were being diverted to illegal channels.
The lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia federal court.
The lawsuit said AmerisourceBergen, one of the country’s three largest drug distributors, intentionally altered how one of its units monitored orders, dramatically reducing the number of controlled-substance orders that underwent internal review.
The Department of Justice says that the company’s systemic failure to report suspicious orders to the DEA contributed to the opioid epidemic. Billions of dollars are being sought in penalties.
“Companies distributing opioids are required to report suspicious orders to federal law enforcement,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.
“AmerisourceBergen which sold billions of units of prescription opioids over the past decade repeatedly failed to comply with that requirement.”
According to the complaint, AmerisourceBergen executives knew prescription pills shipped to Florida and West Virginia were being diverted and “sold in parking lots for cash.”
The company accused the Justice Department of “cherry picking” alleged problems that existed at a handful of pharmacies out of the tens of thousands of pharmacies served by the company.