Criminal Opioid Charges Piling Up Against Pharmacists, Distributors

July 23, 2019

Prosecutors are bringing accountability to the opioid epidemic.

Criminal prosecution of pharmacists and drug distributors that illegally distribute opioids has increased in recent months.

In the latest action, a federal grand jury charged a pharmaceutical distributor, two of its former officials, and two pharmacists with conspiring to distribute controlled substances after the DEA and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio filed a criminal complaint.

Grand jury charges were brought against drug distributor Miami-Luken’s former president, Anthony Rattini; James Barclay, former compliance officer of Miami-Luken; Devonna Miller-West, pharmacist and owner of Westside Pharmacy in Oceana, WV; and Samuel“Randy” Ballengee,PharmD, owner of Tug Valley Pharmacy in Williamson, WV.

According to the indictment, Rattini, Barclay, and Miami-Luken sought to enrich themselves by distributing millions of painkillers to doctors and pharmacies in rural Appalachia, an epicenter of the opioid epidemic.

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The distributor allegedly ignored obvious signs of abuse by distributing more than 2.3 million oxycodone pills and 2.6 hydrocodone pills to Miller-West’s pharmacy, located in a town of approximately 1,394 people.

From 2008 through 2014, Miami-Luken distributed more than 6 million hydrocodone pills to Tug Valley Pharmacy, according to the DEA. The wholesaler allegedly provided another 2.2 million pills from 2012 through 2014 to another pharmacy that had been cut off by other wholesalers.

“Today’s arrests should be a wakeup call to distributors and pharmacists who are allowing opioid prescription pills to be illegally sold and dispensed from their facilities,” says DEA Assistant Administrator John Martin, in a statement. 

In late April, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York brought criminal charges against Rochester Drug Cooperative, one of the largest drug distributors in the U.S., and two of its executives.

“This prosecution is the first of its kind: Executives of a pharmaceutical distributor and the distributor itself have been charged with drug trafficking-trafficking the same drugs that are fueling the opioid epidemic that is ravaging this country,” says U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in a statement.

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RDC “knowingly and intentionally violated the federal narcotics laws by distributing dangerous, highly addictive opioids to pharmacy customers that it knew were being sold and used illicitly,” Berman’s office says.

At the direction of senior management, RDC supplied large quantities of oxycodone, fentanyl, and other dangerous opioids to pharmacy customers “that its own compliance personnel determined were dispensing those drugs to individuals who had no legitimate medical need for them,” according to Berman.