The drug distributor “repeatedly refused or negligently failed to report suspicious orders placed by pharmacy customers that defendants had reason to know were allowing opioids and other controlled substances to be diverted into illegal channels,” the government said in a civil complaint filed Thursday in federal court in Philadelphia.
The case could result in fines in the billions of dollars, a Justice Department official said in a background call with press. The distributor, which is headquartered outside Philadelphia, agreed in February to pay $6.1 billion to resolve separate opioid lawsuits by US states and localities. At the same time,
The US claims AmerisourceBergen failed to properly act on “at least hundreds of thousands” of suspicious orders. The government is seeking civil fines and an injunction forcing AmerisourceBergen to follow the reporting requirements.
A spokeswoman for AmerisourceBergen didn’t immediately respond to voicemails seeking comment on the allegations.
Drug distributers are required to report to the Drug Enforcement Administration any controlled-substance orders that are unusually large or frequent or otherwise deviates from the normal pattern, according to the government.
AmerisourceBergen ignored numerous red flags that opioid orders were being diverted for illegal sales, continuing to sell to pharmacies for years while failing to report to the DEA, the government claimed. Examples included two pharmacies, in Florida and West Virginia, where drugs were allegedly being sold in parking lots. And AmerisourceBergen allegedly failed to take proper action when an employee raised suspicions that 11 patients at a Colorado pharmacy might be addicted. Two later died of overdoses, according to the complaint.
The US claims that during the opioid epidemic, AmerisourceBergen intentionally changed its order-monitoring system for its biggest subsidiary, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., in a way that “dramatically reduced” the number of controlled-substance orders that were flagged for review.
The case is US v. AmerisourceBergen Corp., 22-cv-05209, US District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).
(updates with details from complaint)
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