Conshohocken’s AmerisourceBergen accused by Department of Justice of contributing to the opioid epidemic. Read the company’s response to the lawsuit

In a civil complaint filed on December 29th, the United States Department of Justice alleges that Conshohocken-based AmerisourceBergen and two of its subsidiaries violated federal law in connection with the distribution of controlled substances to pharmacies and other customers across the country. The Department of Justice claims this contributed to the prescription opioid epidemic and is seeking civil penalties and injunctive relief.

In a press release from the Department of Justice announcing the lawsuit, it states:

Pharmaceutical distributors that sell controlled substances, including AmerisourceBergen, have a longstanding legal obligation to monitor the orders that they receive from pharmacies and other customers and must inform the DEA each and every time they receive a suspicious order.

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleges that over the course of nearly a decade, from 2014 through the present, AmerisourceBergen violated the CSA by failing to report at least hundreds of thousands of suspicious orders of controlled substances to the DEA as required by law. The alleged unlawful conduct includes filling and failing to report numerous orders from pharmacies that AmerisourceBergen knew were likely facilitating diversion of prescription opioids. Today’s filing is the result of a multi-year investigation by the DEA, the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch and several U.S. Attorneys’ Offices.

The complaint outlines AmerisourceBergen’s actions involving five pharmacies. In a response to the lawsuit, AmerisourceBergen accused the Department of Justice of having “cherry picked” the five pharmacies from the thousands of pharmacies it services and that it believes the complaint is an attempt to shift blame from the DEA to the company.

Further in the response, AmerisourceBergen defends its actions involving the five pharmacies stating that it reported suspicious orders and that the DEA had not followed up on the reports. In addition, AmerisourceBergen claims it had restricted and terminated its relationships with the pharmacies, in some cases prior to the DEA taking action against the pharmacy.

From AmericourceBergen’s response (read full text):

In each of these examples [the five pharmacies] – which were cherry picked by DOJ from the thousands of pharmacies AmerisourceBergen delivers medicines to be the most incriminating to the company – the DEA received information directly from AmerisourceBergen on the pharmacy and it’s ordering of controlled substances like opioids. And in each case AmerisourceBergen invested time and money to take action before the DEA did. Perhaps the most fundamental demonstration of this fact is that the Department of Justice complaint never accuses AmerisourceBergen of delivering opioid based medicines to a pharmacy that the Department of Justice’s own agency – the DEA – had not registered themselves.

If AmerisourceBergen is found liable, it could face escalating civil penalties depending on when each violation occurred and the type of controlled substance at issue, specifically, up to $10,000 for each reporting violation before November 2015, up to $16,864 for each violation between November 2015 and October 2018 and for each violation relating to a suspicious order for a non-opioid controlled substance not reported after October 2018, and up to $109,374 for each violation relating to a suspicious opioid order not reported after October 2018, potentially totaling billions of dollars in penalties. The court also may award injunctive relief to prevent AmerisourceBergen from committing future CSA violations.

Support local journalism with a $5 to $10 paid monthly subscription to