On Thursday, the Justice Department announced that federals have indicted and arrested Ohio-based pharmaceutical wholesaler Miami-Luken, two of its former top officials, and two pharmacists for conspiring to illegally distribute millions of prescription opioids painkillers in the states that have been hit hardest by the opioid epidemic.
Opioids are prescription drugs recommended to patients with severe, chronic pain due to serious medical conditions. However, in the United States, opioids are at the root of an ongoing public health concern due to drug overdoses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were around 47,600 opioid drug overdose deaths in the United States.
The US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Benjamin Glassman, said, “The distribution of oxycodone and hydrocodone was outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose.”
On Thursday morning, federals arrested the former president of Miami-Luken, one compliance officer, and two West Virginia pharmacists.
John Martin, Assistant Administrator of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said, “Today’s arrests should be a wake-up call to distributors and pharmacists who are allowing opioid prescription pills to be illegally sold and dispensed from their facilities.”
The Justice Department said that Miami-Luken distributed more than 2 million hydrocodone tablets and over 2 million oxycodone tablets to a pharmacy in a West Virginia town consisting of only 1,400 people from 2011 to 2015.
The drug wholesaler also shipped over 1.8 million oxycodone tablets to a drugstore that was under the investigation of DEA.
According to the Justice Department, the wholesaler sold prescription opioids in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. If found guilty, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison.