Federal prosecutors charged Ohio opioid distributor that sent 6 million pain pills to small town

pillsElise Amendola/AP Photo

  • Federal prosecutors in Ohio filed charges against a pharmaceutical wholesaler, two former executives, and two pharmacists for conspiring to illegally distribute millions of addictive prescription painkillers.

  • The indictment says the charges were necessary to combat the company's blatant profits off of vulnerable areas that are the hardest-hit by addiction as part of the country's opioid epidemic.
  • The charges come as the latest in a crackdown on distributors of the highly addictive painkillers amid the steeply accelerating opioid epidemic.
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Federal prosecutors in Ohio indicted a pharmaceutical wholesaler, two former executives, and two pharmacists Thursday for conspiring to illegally distribute millions of addictive prescription painkillers in states that are already rife with opioid addiction.

Benjamin C. Glassman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said in the indictment that the distribution of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills through local drugstores likely aggravated the opioid epidemic in vulnerable states.

The most notable concentration came in the form of Ohio-based distributor Miami-Luken's distribution of 2.6 million hydrocodone tablets and 2.3 million units of oxycodone to pharmacist Samuel Ballengee's Tug Valley Pharmacy in Williamson, West Virginia between 2011 and 2015, according to the department.

NBC News reported in February 2018 that the town was so saturated with pain pills that there were more than 6,500 prescription painkillers per person in the 3,000-person coal-mining town.

"There's a need, in my opinion, to devote sufficient charges right here and now to stop the dying," Glassman said of the flow of pain pills through Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The indictment specified that the amount and types of pills distributed were "outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose."

Nearly 100,000 people died from 2006 to 2012 as a result of the prescription opioid epidemic, according to federal data.

Read more: New federal data exposes how America's largest drug companies flooded the country with 76 billion opioid pills in a seven-year period

Statistics released in July revealed that the country's largest drug companies flooded the country with 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pills in that same seven-year period.

Now, almost 2,000 cities, towns, and counties are suing over two dozen drug manufacturers and distributors, alleging they conspired to flood the nation with opioid pills while turning a massive profit.

The drug companies have pointed the blame to doctors, who they say exhibit overprescribing practices, and customers, who abused their prescriptions.

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