Federal prosecutors launch criminal probe of opioid makers, distributors: report

Federal prosecutors launch criminal probe of opioid makers, distributors: report

Federal prosecutors have launched a criminal probe of opioid makers and distributors to determine if they allowed access to opioids to balloon intentionally, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. 

The Eastern District of New York has filed grand jury subpoenas against at least six companies: drugmakers Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Mallinckrodt PLC, Johnson & Johnson, Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc. and distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp. and McKesson Corp., according to the Journal. 

People familiar with the matter told the Journal that the subpoenas related to the Brooklyn federal investigation. More subpoenas against other companies can be expected as the probe is in its early stages, one of the sources told the Journal.

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If the investigation ends in criminal charges, it could be the largest prosecution of drug companies regarding the opioid crisis. 

The Controlled Substances Act mandates these companies to track commonly abused drugs by reporting suspicious orders or customers and keeping up compliance programs. Legal experts told the Journal that criminal charges would only stick if prosecutors could prove the companies purposefully avoided these mandates.

A Johnson & Johnson spokesman told the Journal it hopes its policies and procedures to prevent opioid abuse were in accordance with the law.

Teva spokeswoman Kelley Dougherty told The Hill it was cooperating and is confident in its tracking process.

Mallinckrodt noted to The Hill that the company had previously disclosed the grand jury subpoena and declined to comment further.

McKesson spokesman David Matthews told The Hill that the company also disclosed the subpoena, and "to our knowledge, there have been no additional developments." He added the company considers the subpoenas part of a "broader investigation" into the pharmaceutical industry.

Representatives for AmerisourceBergen declined to comment to The Hill, and Amneal did not respond to a request for comment.

Several states and local lawsuits have taken on drug companies amid the opioid crisis, putting one major drugmaker, Purdue Pharma, into bankruptcy. 

Updated at 11:25 a.m.