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AmerisourceBergen In Government’s Crosshairs Over Opioid Epidemic

January 3, 2023

On the heels of a $6.4 billion settlement with several states in 2021, AmerisourceBergen is once again in the government’s crosshairs over the opioid epidemic. Just before year’s end, the United States filed a civil enforcement action against drug distributor AmerisourceBergen (“ASB”) in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  The complaint alleges that ASB failed to report hundreds of thousands of suspicious orders for opioids in violation of the Controlled Substances Act.

The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 Requires Monitoring of Orders

The Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) closely regulates the sales and distribution of opioids because of their potential for misuse.   The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (“Controlled Substances Act”)  requires that wholesalers who distribute opioids and other controlled substances, like ASB, monitor their customer’s orders.  “Suspicious” orders of controlled-substances, such as those that substantially deviate from a normal pattern or are unusual in size, must be reported to the DEA, absent a satisfactory investigation by the distributor that dispels all suspicion.  Even if the “suspicious” order is not fulfilled, the distributor must still report its suspicions to the DEA.

ASB Allegedly Turned A Blind Eye To Suspicious Opioid Sales

According to the United States’ Complaint, ASB continued to fill excessively large orders of opioids for a pharmacy, who it knew or should have known, was re-selling the drugs for cash in the pharmacy’s parking lot. In addition, the government claims a former ASB employee informed ASB that specific customers of a pharmacy were possibly drug addicts feeding their addition with opioids provided to the pharmacy by ASB. Yet, ASB continued to provide massive quantities of opioids to the pharmacy. Subsequently, two of those suspect customers overdosed on drugs from that pharmacy.  In other instances, ASB failed to report suspicious orders they refused to fulfill.  In announcing the lawsuit, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta did not mince words:

In short, the government’s complaint alleges that, for years, AmerisourceBergen prioritized profits over its legal obligations and over Americans’ wellbeing.

The lawsuit seeks penalties and an injunction against future violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act.

Whistleblower Law Collaborative’s Prior History With ASB

In 2018, we announced our client’s landmark success in a False Claims Act case against ASB with a $625 million civil settlement. Our client’s case did not involve the opioid crisis,  but rather alleged that ASB submitted false claims to government payers for unapproved and adulterated drugs, double-billed from exploiting overfill, and paid improper kickbacks to physicians.

Whistleblower Law Collaborative

The Whistleblower Law Collaborative LLC, based in Boston, devotes its practice entirely to representing clients in bringing actions under the federal and state False Claims Acts and other whistleblower programs. Under the False Claims Act, a private citizen (known as a “relator”) who suspects or knows of fraud against the government can act as a whistleblower, file a sealed complaint on behalf of the government, and share in government’s recovery.

For more information, contact the Whistleblower Law Collaborative LLC at 617.366.2800