NPR’s Audie Cornish talks with Gary Craig, a Democrat and Chronicle press reporter, about the very first significant pharmaceutical supplier to deal with federal criminal charges over its function in the opioid epidemic.



AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today Rochester Drug Cooperative ended up being the very first pharmaceutical distributer to deal with federal criminal charges for its function in the opioid epidemic. RDC is charged with conspiring to disperse drugs and defrauding the federal government. The charges are an outcome of a two-year examination that started after it was discovered that RDC disregarded tablet limitations for drug stores and dealt with medical professionals who over-prescribe.

Gary Craig is an investigative press reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle paper in Rochester, N.Y. Welcome to the program.

GARY CRAIG: Thanks for having me.

CORNISH: Provide us some background on the claim that caused the two-year examination. What were the warnings for the Drug Enforcement Administration?

CRAIG: Well, it – you understand, it appears the criminal and civil examination started back in2017 And you understand, what they found according to court documents – and RDC has actually basically confessed to this – is that clear indication from the drug stores that RDC disperses to – clear indication that they were simply sort of exceedingly pressing out opioids were disregarded by RDC or, even when highlighted internally by compliance officers, were not given the attention of DEA as needed.

CORNISH: What does that imply? What type of signals are we discussing?

CRAIG: There’s a variety of them that the federal district attorneys discussed, things like extreme purchases with money in some drug stores, buy from well out of the area of the drug stores. And these are opioid purchases we’re discussing – exceedingly high portions of sales of fentanyl spots and opioid oxycodone pain relievers from some drug stores and a few of the bigger drug stores that RDC handled. So those are a few of the important things that the feds highlighted.

CORNISH: 2 RDC executives deal with charges. What are they implicated of?

CRAIG: Essentially sort of being gamers in this whole, you understand, supposed type of lack of knowledge or ready lack of knowledge, I ought to state, of RDC’s function in the opioid epidemic, the important things we spoke about – you understand, simply sort of closing your eyes to drug stores that were certainly pressing painkilling prescription medications onto the streets in huge numbers. And the claims are that the previous CEO, Larry Doud, and previous compliance officer were type in permitting this to occur internally and simply disregarded all the indications. One has actually pleaded guilty and is complying. And Doud is dealing with the criminal charges.

CORNISH: You have actually yapped about the drug stores here. Therefore I’m questioning, what about them? And what about the medical professionals making the orders? Are they being held liable?

CRAIG: Well, it’s a fascinating relationship. The Rochester Drug Cooperative, as the name certainly indicates, is a cooperative. Its really members – sort of voting members, et cetera – are the 1,300 drug stores to which it disperses medications. So the New york city attorney general of the United States last month submitted suits versus a variety of pharmaceutical producers and RDC too, declaring that this sort of types nearly an incestuous relationship where when your really members or individuals who are your entity itself are the ones that are offering the pharmaceuticals, you have less of a desire to essentially do the ideal thing.

CORNISH: Is this an indication of things to come? I imply, is this setting an essential precedent in regards to this being criminal charges?

CRAIG: I would believe so. You understand, as they plainly highlighted at the press conference today – the federal authorities in Manhattan – that this is the very first of its kind. And certainly they have actually turned a corner with police as far as making this choice that rather of entirely pursuing these things civilly, they’re going to now pursue criminally. So I would presume that we would see other federal prosecutions of a comparable nature.

CORNISH: Gary Craig is an investigative press reporter with the Democrat and Chronicle paper. Thanks a lot.

CRAIG: Thank you.

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