For first time, pharmaceutical distributor faces federal criminal charges over opioid crisis

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) as a corporate entity with conspiring to distribute drugs, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and failing to file suspicious order reports. To settle the civil and criminal charges brought by the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, RDC has agreed to pay a $20 million fine.

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) as a corporate entity with conspiring to distribute drugs, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and failing to file suspicious order reports. To settle the civil and criminal charges brought by the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office, RDC has agreed to pay a $20 million fine. The Rochester, NY-based company—the sixth-largest drug distributor in the nation—must also comply with the controlled substances law and undergo 5 years of supervision by an independent monitor. Under the agreement, RDC admitted that it deliberately violated federal narcotics laws by shipping dangerous, highly addictive opioids to pharmacies, knowing that the products were being sold and used illegally. "We made mistakes," said Jeff Eller, a company spokesperson. "And RDC understands that these mistakes, directed by former management, have serious consequences." Prosecutors have also charged two former RDC officials with conspiring to distribute drugs and defrauding the government. Laurence F. Doud III, the former CEO, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday; he faces a mandatory 10-year minimum sentence and a maximum of life in prison, if convicted. William Pietruszewski, the former chief compliance officer, recently pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors. The charging documents indicate that as CEO, Doud pushed up sales of oxycodone significantly over 4 years, increasing from 4.7 million doses in 2012 to 42.2 million in 2016. Sales of fentanyl during the same period skyrocketed from 1.3 million doses to 63,000, according to the documents, and Doud's compensation more than doubled.