US: Prosecutors bring rare criminal charges against Ohio opioid distributor - PressFrom - US
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USProsecutors bring rare criminal charges against Ohio opioid distributor

22:20  18 july  2019
22:20  18 july  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Prosecutors bring rare criminal charges against Ohio opioid distributor© Alex Brandon/AP Dr. Joseph Mastandrea, then-chairman of now-defunct,Miami-Luken, Inc., testfies to Congress about the opioid epidemic in May, 2018 .

Federal prosecutors in Cincinnati filed criminal charges Wednesday against an opioid distributor and two of its top former officers, accusing them of conspiring with doctors and pharmacies to pour millions of addictive pain pills into Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky.

The indictment of Miami-Luken, its former president and its former compliance officer was the second time in three months that federal prosecutors have used criminal laws against a drug distributor in their efforts to stem the prescription opioid epidemic. That is a more aggressive posture than the Justice Department has used since 2007, when it began using civil and administrative actions to enforce laws against drug distributors.

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“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 about why the agency used criminal statutes. “We have to devote the resources to cut off the supply of the drugs, whether it’s synthetics or it’s prescription opioids or both.”

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The single count of the grand jury indictment accused former Miami-Luken president Anthony Rattini and former compliance officer James Barclay of knowingly distributing powerful narcotic painkillers for other than medical reasons. The company itself, which went out of business late last year, was also charged.

Two West Virginia pharmacists, Devonna Miller-West and Samuel R. Ballengee, who owned and operated small town drugstores that allegedly received millions of pills, were also charged. All face as much as 20 years in prison. The Washington Post was attempting to reach their attorneys.

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The new indictment lists numerous violations by Miami-Luken, including ignoring “obvious signs” that drugs were being diverted to illegal users and dealers between 2011 and 2015. Prosecutors said the company sent 2.3 million doses of oxycodone and 2.6 million doses of hydrocodone to Miller-West’s drugstore in Oceana, W.Va. with a population of 1,394.

Miami-Luken was a midsize drug distributor that generated at least $173 million in sales annually shipping pharmaceuticals to over 200 locations in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee, among the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.

In April, the U.S. attorney in New York brought criminal charges against Rochester Drug Cooperative, another opioid distributor, in the first use of that tactic against a middleman in the drug supply chain.

Under federal law, these wholesalers are required to monitor the flow of controlled substances and alert the Drug Enforcement Administration when they identify suspicious purchases that could indicate pills are being diverted to the black market. But many companies ignored that responsibility as profits soared, authorities allege.

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The Post and “60 Minutes” reported in 2017 that DEA investigators wanted criminal charges filed against executives of the largest drug distributor in the United States, McKesson Corp., after they built a case against the firm alleging violations in nine parts of the country. But they were rebuffed by federal prosecutors and the Justice Department, which settled with the company and fined it $150 million.

The Post revealed Monday that previously undisclosed DEA data shows that drug distributors saturated the country with 76 billion opioid doses between 2006 and 2012, far more than was previously known.

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