According to the Justice Department, AmerisourceBergen knew that drugs sent to two pharmacies in Florida and West Virginia “were likely being sold in parking lots for cash” – an acquaintance that was described by an AmerisourceBergen employee as “the reddest of red flags,” U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Philip Sellinger told reporters.
In New Jersey, the company knowingly sent drugs to a pharmacy that pleaded guilty to “unlawfully selling controlled substances,” as well as another where the pharmacist in charge was charged with drug diversion, prosecutors say. And in Colorado, AmerisourceBergen was supplying a pharmacy where it had identified 11 patients as potential “addicts” with illegitimate prescriptions; two of those patients later died of overdoses, according to the Justice Department.
AmerisourceBergen argues the lawsuit focuses too much on these five pharmacies, which it says were “selected” from tens of thousands it works with.
“Even in these five hand-selected examples presented by the DOJ, AmerisourceBergen verified DEA registration and State Board of Pharmacy licenses before fulfilling any order, performed extensive due diligence on these customers, reported each sale of all controlled substances to the DEA and reported suspected DEA controlled substance orders for each of these pharmacies – hundreds of suspicious orders in total,” AmerisourceBergen spokeswoman Lauren Esposito said in a statement. “With the vast amount of information AmerisourceBergen has shared directly with the DEA regarding these five pharmacies, the DEA has yet to feel the need to take prompt action itself – in fact, AmerisourceBergen has put end his relationship with four of them before the DEA makes a decision. enforcement actions while two of the five pharmacies maintain their DEA controlled substance registration to date.
If found liable, AmerisourceBergen could face substantial civil penalties “potentially totaling billions of dollars,” Gupta said. Already, the company has had to pay billions for its role in fueling the opioid epidemic. AmerisourceBergen paid $6.1 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits in February and was one of three companies named in a $400 million settlement paid to the state of West Virginia in August.
The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of New Jersey, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the District of Colorado, and the Eastern District of New York all helped prepare for the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District eastern Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit comes as the opioid crisis continues to rock the country. In 2021, more than 107,000 people died from overdoses in the United States, more than 71,000 of them from synthetic opioids like fentanyl. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data showing a drop in life expectancy in the United States last year, a change that health experts attribute to the combined effects of the opioid epidemic and the Covid-19 pandemic.