Story at a glance

  • Six pharmaceutical companies have been subpoenaed for documents related to the distribution of opioids.
  • Federal prosecutors are analyzing whether drug manufacturers and distributors violated the Controlled Substances Act regulations, a statute normally used against drug dealers.
  • If the companies are found liable, civil or criminal charges could be filed against them.

Federal prosecutors have launched a probe into multiple manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs, according to a Wall Street Journal report. So far, six companies, including Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson and McKesson Corporation, have received grand-jury subpoenas as prosecutors deduce if the companies violated the Controlled Substances Act, a statute that takes aim at drug dealers by regulating and tracking the manufacturing, ordering and prescribing of controlled substances. 

This is a significant step in addressing liability in the opioid epidemic, mainly because the Controlled Substances Act is used to thwart drug dealers and traffickers. Prosecutors will likely look for abnormalities in company records, such as unusually high orders and shipments of painkillers.

It would also fall under the companies’ purviews to determine whether or not their drugs have “relative potential for abuse” or pose a “ public health” per Section 201 of the Controlled Substances Act, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Should drug companies be found in violation of any section of this act, they could face civil charges, and if they are found of having intentionally violated those regulations, they could face criminal charges.

Charges of this nature would set an important precedent in holding drug manufacturers and distributors accountable for the opioid epidemic. 

Published on Nov 27, 2019