Feds: Ex-CEO is first drug exec indicted in opioid crisis

Oxycodone pain pills prescribed for a patient with chronic pain lie on display on March 23, 2016 in Norwich, CT. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The former head of a drug distributor has been indicted on what federal prosecutors say are the first-ever criminal charges against a drug company executive stemming from the opioid crisis.

The indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges former Rochester Drug Co-Operative CEO Laurence Doud III ordered subordinates to ignore red flags about certain customers to maximize company revenues and his own pay.

Doud and other top executives “made the deliberate decision” not to investigate, monitor or alert federal regulators about pharmacy customers they knew were providing oxycodone, fentanyl and other opioids to people who wanted them for non-medical uses, the indictment alleges.

Doud’s lawyer, Derrelle Janey, said the former executive intends to “fully defend” himself against the charges. Doud, who retired in 2017, alleged in a lawsuit last year that Rochester Drug Co-Operative tried using him as a scapegoat for its legal and regulatory troubles.

An indictment charging Rochester Drug Co-Operative was also unsealed Tuesday.

The Rochester, New York-based company said it has reached a deferred prosecution agreement, will pay a $20 million fine to resolve a civil complaint, and consented to three years of independent compliance monitoring.

The company is one of the nation’s ten largest distributors of pharmaceutical products, with over 1,300 pharmacy customers and over $1 billion in revenue per year. The company says the vast majority of its customers are small, independent pharmacies.

“We made mistakes,” company spokesman Jeff Eller said in an emailed statement. “RDC understands that these mistakes, directed by former management, have serious consequences…. We accept responsibility for those mistakes. We can do better, we are doing better, and we will do better.”

Another former company executive, William Pietruszewski, who was chief of compliance, reached a cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

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