Federal prosecutors have officially filed criminal charges against a major drug distributor, Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC), along with two of the company’s former executives— William Pietruszewski , former operations manager, and Laurence F. Doud III, former CEO.
This is major news if you have been following the opioid crisis, as this is the first time federal prosecutors are targeting legal painkiller wholesalers, who have contributed significantly to the current opioid epidemic.
The pharmaceutical company Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) as a corporation is being charged, as are two former executives of the company— William Pietruszewski and Laurence F. Doud III.
The two executives are being charged with felony drug trafficking charges. Executives Pietruszewski and Doud are also being personally charged with two counts of conspiracy: conspiracy to distribute drugs and conspiracy to defraud the government. The RDC’s former operations manager, William Pietruszewski, also has a separate charge of failing to file suspicious order reports.
The charges brought against Rochester Drug Cooperative (RDC) include: conspiring to distribute drugs, conspiracy to defraud the U.S., and failing to file suspicious order reports. The New York Times reported that “prosecutors did strike an agreement to avoid prosecution that requires RDC pay a $20 million fine, agree to five years of supervision by an independent monitor, and otherwise comply with controlled substances laws…the company did have to admit that it intentionally broke federal drug laws” (McKay).
What Did They Do?
The accused will have to face allegations made against them, including their part in shipping tens of millions of oxycodone pills and synthetic opioid fentanyl to pharmacies that they knew were using unlawful practices of distribution from the years of 2012-2017. “The RDC reported just four of 3,000 suspicious orders for oxycodone and fentanyl to the Drug Enforcement Agency” (McKay).
In the past, authorities have handled distribution companies’ who have knowingly filled suspicious orders with civil penalties; this time, distribution companies and two of their executives will have to face the criminal justice system.
How Did They Respond?
William Pietruszewski, the former operations manager of the RDC, has already pleaded guilty to all charges. Former CEO, Laurence F. Doud III is contesting his charges, and will appear in a court hearing this Thursday. Doud received bonus pay for his shady distribution practices. Doud’s lawyer made a statement that his client is being framed, the government has it all wrong, and that Doud will “fight these charges to his last breath and he will be vindicated” (McKay).
Both William Pietruszewski and Laurence F. Doud III face a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison for the drug trafficking charges, as well as a maximum of 5 years for defrauding the government. The charges both executives face are enough to carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Finding Justice in the Opioid Epidemic
This is a major step in holding those involved with creating and perpetuating the opioid crisis accountable. For years on end, law enforcement has been targeting smaller time dealers and haven’t even broached the industrial level dealers— or Big Pharma. Players of Big Pharma have continued to make reckless mistakes with the intent of making as much money possible, regardless of how many people were hurt in the process.
Rochester Drug Cooperative continuously ignored red flags and continued to ship tens of millions of oxycodone pills and fentanyl products to pharmacies they knew were distributing those pills and products illegally. This behavior was continued simply because it made their sales soar, and put extra money in the pocket of the RDC’s CEO Laurence F. Doud III (Rashbaum).
After countless years of going after criminals on a community level, criminal prosecutors have finally decided to hold big companies accountable for their careless practices that have effected people nation-wide. RDC, or Rochester Drug Cooperative, is the sixth largest pharmaceutical distributor in the United States. RDC services hundreds of pharmacies, mostly in the Northeast.
Action Against Big Pharma
Hundreds of lawsuits against big pharmaceutical companies, who manufacture and distribute opioids, are pending.
The pharmaceutical company responsible for the creation of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, recently settled a lawsuit that accused them of “aggressively” marketing the opioid, without being transparent about the drug’s risks. Currently, more than 1,600 opioid-related lawsuits are pending against big pharmaceutical companies in both state-level court systems and federal courts.
The opioid crisis has caused backlash against heroin dealers and poor medical practices, but “…large corporations and senior executives have long escaped criminal culpability for the epidemic of overdoses from prescription painkillers” and this is finally changing. Finally, a company peddling millions of opioids will be held accountable for their reckless distribution practices, dealing these opioids and synthetic opioids like fentanyl at a volume greater than any major drug supplier on the street and even greater than cartel drug distribution. Finally, prosecutors are holding these massive companies responsible for their malpractices— distributing opioids to pharmacies that they knew were getting the prescription medications to be sold and used illicitly (Rashbaum).
Impact of Big Pharma
The impact of Big Pharma is far from being exposed. The pending lawsuits and current federal cases against big pharmaceutical companies are only the tip of the iceberg. For Rochester Drug Cooperative, the big pharmaceutical company lost all sense of moral obligation— Doud is responsible for driving “the sales of oxycodone pills up ninefold over four years, from 4.7 million in 2012 to 42.2 million in 2016” (Rashbaum). “Fentanyl sales shot up even more over the same period, to 1.3 million doses from 63,000 doses, the documents said. And Mr. Doud’s compensation, tied to the sales, more than doubled, climbing to over $1.5 million” (Rashbaum).
We are sick of the greed that drove and continues to drive the immoral practices of big pharmaceutical companies. These practices have a massive impact on the opioid crisis, and as executives and companies make more money, more people fall into addiction and lose their lives. Bad manufacturing and distributing practices are responsible for endangering the public, and gaining financial benefits from opioid addictions. We are glad to see these companies and executives be held accountable for their actions. At Royal Life Centers, we see the impact of the opioid crisis first-hand through our guests; we want justice for them and all who have unfortunately lost the opportunity to recover along with their lives.
Overdoses on prescription opioids account for nearly a quarter million deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We think it’s about time that massive pharmaceutical companies and their greed-driven executives are held accountable for their role in the current opioid crisis.
McKay, Tom. “Feds File Criminal Charges Against Opioid Distributor, Two Executives in First-of-Its-Kind Case.” Gizmodo, Gizmodo, 24 Apr. 2019, gizmodo.com/feds-file-criminal-charges-against-opioid-distributor-1834262675.
Rashbaum, William K. “For First Time, Pharmaceutical Distributor Faces Federal Criminal Charges Over Opioid Crisis.” The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 23 Apr. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/nyregion/opioid-crisis-drug-trafficking-rochester.html.
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