LAKELAND, Fla. — One of the largest distributors of
pharmaceutical drugs in the United States has agreed to a landmark
settlement, according to a report
on Street Insider.
McKesson Pharmaceutical will pay a $150 million civil penalty for
allegedly violating the Controlled Substances Act. The settlement
came about nine years after McKesson agreed to a $13.25 million
penalty for similar violations of the Act.
As part of the 2008 settlement, McKesson was to design a
compliance program, but a government investigation found evidence
that the company did not fully adhere to the program it developed,
which was meant to detect and report instances of “suspicious
orders” of controlled substances by independent and small-chain
pharmacies. McKesson, the government alleged, continued to supply
some pharmacies a growing amount of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills
between 2008 and 2013.
For example, investigators found that between June 2008 and May
2013, McKesson’s distribution center in Colorado processed more
than 1.6 million orders of controlled substances, but only 16 orders
were reported as suspicious. Similarly, the investigation determined
that McKesson’s center in Lakeland, Florida, filled significantly
larger orders for hydromorphone than they had in the past, but failed
to report the pharmacies’ orders.
This settlement is another step in the government’s ongoing
fight against abuse of prescription drugs.
“Together with the $22 million civil settlement with CVS in 2015
and the $44 million civil settlement with Cardinal Health last year,
this settlement demonstrates our willingness to use all remedies at
our disposal to encourage corporations and individuals involved in
the prescription opioid trade to act responsibly and to punish them
when they fail to do so,” U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley said in a
Jan. 17 news
release from the Department of Justice's Middle
District of Florida.
The settlement will affect four of McKesson’s 29 distribution
centers. In one of the most severe sanctions agreed to by a
registered pharmaceutical distributor, McKesson’s centers in
Colorado, Ohio, Michigan and Florida will see staggered suspensions
of sales of controlled substances.
Regarding the Florida distribution center specifically, “the
Lakeland, FL [distribution center] will be suspended for one year
from distributing hydromorphone only (not all controlled
substances),” Kristin Hunter, the company’s media-relations
contact, said in an email interview with the Florida Record.
“There will be no change to the distribution of non-controlled
pharmaceutical and over-the-counter products… We do not anticipate
any job losses as a result of the operational impacts at this time,”
“McKesson is committed to working with the (Drug Enforcement
Administration) on an ongoing basis to identify new ways to prevent
misuse of controlled substances,” according to the company's news
release about the settlement. “As part of the
settlement agreement reached, McKesson and the DEA plan to meet
regularly over the next five years to ensure ongoing alignment.”
The Department of Justice did not respond to requests for comment
in time for this article's publication.