A national prescription drug company with a warehouse in South Jersey has agreed to pay a $150 million fine for failing to report suspicious orders of addictive pain pills, authorities said.
McKesson Corporation, one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceutical drugs, agreed to pay the civil penalty for alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Special Agent in Charge for the DEA New Jersey’s office.
The nationwide settlement, announced late Tuesday, requires McKesson to suspend sales of controlled substances from its distribution centers in Colorado, Ohio, Michigan and Florida for several years.
The settlement does not impact the distribution warehouse McKesson operates in Delran Township, in Burlington County.
“Pharmaceutical companies are our first line of defense in the fight against prescription opioid abuse,” said Karl J. Kotowski,of the DEA’s New Jersey office. “If they turn a blind eye to suspicious orders of pharmaceutical controlled substances, they are contributing to this epidemic.”
One source of the highly addictive opioid medication has been unscrupulous pharmacies that fill multiple prescriptions from the same doctors of patients, investigations have found.
This is the second time McKesson has gotten into trouble for failing to notice suspicious patterns of pill-ordering. In 2008, it agreed to pay a $13.25 million civil penalty for similar violations.
In this latest case, the government once more alleged that the company continued to fail to have an effective system for detecting “suspicious orders.” A suspicious order would be one coming from an independent or small chain pharmacy that was unusual in its frequency, size, or other pattern.
In Colorado, for example, the company processed 1.6 million orders for controlled substances from 2008 through 2013, yet reported just six of those orders as suspicious, the DEA reported.
The settlement includes the requirement McKesson hire an outside monitor – the first such requirement including in a drug-related civil penalty settlement, the DEA said.
“Pharmaceutical distributors play an important role in identifying and combating prescription drug diversion and abuse. McKesson, as one of the nation’s largest distributors, takes our role seriously,” the company’s CEO, John H. Hammergren, said in a statement. “We continue to significantly enhance the procedures and safeguards across our distribution network to help curtail prescription drug diversion while ensuring patient access to needed medications.”