U.S. DoJ Sues AmerisourceBergen Over Role In Opioid Crisis

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a civil lawsuit against drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp. (ABC) over its alleged role in the opioid crisis.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleged that over the course of nearly a decade, from 2014 through the present, AmerisourceBergen and two of its subsidiaries, AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation and Integrated Commercialization Solutions, LLC violated law by failing to report at least hundreds of thousands of suspicious orders of controlled substances to the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA.

The alleged unlawful conduct includes filling and failing to report numerous orders from pharmacies that AmerisourceBergen knew were likely facilitating diversion of prescription opioids, the justice department said.

Responding to the Department of Justice complaint, AmerisourceBergen said that the complaint 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.

AmerisourceBergen said that Congress investigated the DEA's conduct and found that they did not use tools like registration and manufacturing quotas to address opioid abuse and misuse.

And recently a Federal Judge in West Virginia noted in a decision for AmerisourceBergen and two of its competitors, that the companies had maintained diversion control systems in accordance with the law. The sweeping decision addressed many of the same accusations that are made in this DOJ complaint and concluded that AmerisourceBergen had complied with the law, AmerisourceBergen said.

Meanwhile, the DOJ's complaint alleged that AmerisourceBergen not only ignored red flags of diversion, but also relied on internal systems to monitor and identify suspicious orders that were deeply inadequate, both in design and implementation.

AmerisourceBergen intentionally altered its internal systems in a way that reduced the number of controlled substances reported as suspicious. Even for the small percentage of orders that AmerisourceBergen did identify as suspicious, the company routinely failed to report them to the DEA.

The government's complaint alleged that for years AmerisourceBergen flouted its legal obligations and prioritized profits over the well-being of Americans.

".... 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," said DEA Administrator Anne Milgram.

If AmerisourceBergen is found liable, it could face escalating civil penalties depending on when each violation occurred and the type of controlled substance at issue, specifically, up to $10,000 for each reporting violation before November 2015, up to $16,864 for each violation between November 2015 and October 2018 and for each violation relating to a suspicious order for a non-opioid controlled substance not reported after October 2018, and up to $109,374 for each violation relating to a suspicious opioid order not reported after October 2018, potentially totaling billions of dollars in penalties.

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