U.S. Drug Company Accused of Role in Ongoing Opioid Crisis

A United States drug company is in hot water after being accused by the U.S. Department of Justice of having a role in the ongoing opioid crisis.

Key takeaways:
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    The U.S. Department of Justice files a complaint over a drug company failing to report sketchy sales of opioids.
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    AmerisourceBergen Corp. says they are not at fault for any of the proposed accusations.
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    Drug overdose deaths are becoming a rising issue in the U.S. due to easy access through technology.

In a civil complaint on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice claimed AmerisourceBergen Corp. violated federal law. One of the largest wholesale pharmaceutical distributors in the country is accused of failing to report suspicious activity involving controlled substances.

The Justice Department believes the accused unlawful actions violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania accuses AmerisourceBergen Corp. of failing to report numerous orders of controlled substances to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

AmerisourceBergen Corp. is accused of turning a blind eye to “red flags,” suggesting assistance in the creation of illegal drug trades through prescription drugs. An example of AmerisourceBergen Corp. failing to report violations include drugs being sold in pharmacy parking lots in Florida and West Virginia.

More accusations include two New Jersey pharmacies, and a Colorado pharmacy contributing to drug addiction issues in 11 patients who likely received fake prescriptions. Two patients receiving a prescription at the Colorado pharmacy died of drug overdoses.

DEA Administrator, Anne Milgram, states in a Justice Department press release that the drug giant is responsible for lives.

"AmerisourceBergen, one of the largest wholesale distributors of opioids in the world, had a legal obligation to report suspicious orders to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and our complaint alleges that the company’s repeated and systemic failure to fulfill this simple obligation helped ignite an opioid epidemic that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths over the past decade,... The men and women of the DEA will stop at nothing to hold accountable registrants that fail to uphold their responsibility of saving American lives by filing suspicious order reports."

Anne Milgram, DEA Administrator

If the accusations are true, AmerisourceBergen could be responsible for billions of dollars worth of penalties. Despite these accusations by the Department of Justice, the drug company is highlighting its innocence.

AmerisourceBergen released a counter statement on their website Thursday, describing their own series of events regarding the allegations involving the five pharmacies. The drug company says it took appropriate action when necessary in each of the situations, and that accusations are “cherry-picked.”

AmerisourceBergen believes any wrongdoings that may have occurred fall on the shoulders of the DEA in their press release.

“An objective review of the facts shows that the DOJ’s complaint about AmerisourceBergen is simply an attempt to shift blame from past administrations at the Department of Justice and specifically their agency, the DEA, to industries they were tasked with regulating.”

Ongoing drug overdose epidemic in the U.S.

Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show overdose deaths from opioids are on the rise, especially those from illicit fentanyl. The number of drug overdose deaths of those involving opioids increased from an estimated 70,029 in 2020 to 80,816 in 2021. Previously, the number of total drug overdose deaths increased by 30% from 2019 to 2020.

Black market drugs are easier to buy now than ever due to technology. Recently, the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland highlighting Snapchat and other social media companies role in the sale of illegal fentanyl.

Fentanyl is approved for treating severe pains. However, the drug has become popular in illegal drug markets for its heroin-high symptoms. Fentanyl can be mixed with other drugs incognito, leaving consequences for users without knowledge of its presence.

On November 8, 2022, Abdallah Amer Al was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison after dealing a deadly dose of fentanyl to a 16-year-old via Snapchat. The victim was unaware of the presence of fentanyl and believed the drug to be Percocet pills.

Jarod Forget, Special Agent in Charge of the DEA Washington Division, states these unfortunate situations are becoming a common occurrence.

“Many of the people who died from fentanyl had no idea they even took it. The drug cartels are using social media to relentlessly expand their business and deceptively sell fake pills directly to young people,” Forget said in a U.S. Attorney’s Office press release. “We will not stand for criminals such as this, who are duping our youth and fueling the overdose crisis in our area."

The Biden Administration recently awarded $1.5 billion to all states and territories for support to individuals affected by the opioid crisis.

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