Apr 24, 2019

Rochester Drug Cooperative hit with first criminal opioid-related charges

Oxycodone pain pills. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Rochester Drug Cooperative became the first drug distributor to receive criminal charges relating to its role in the opioid epidemic, the Department of Justice announced yesterday.

The bottom line: The company "prioritized attracting business, catering to existing customers, and making money above all else," the complaint reads.

Details: Rochester agreed to a $20 million settlement with the Southern District of New York and the Drug Enforcement Administration, and admitted to an outlined statement of facts regarding its conduct.

  • 2 Rochester executives were also charged yesterday and face possible jail time. One has pleaded guilty.

By the numbers: This penalty pales in comparison with how much Rochester made distributing opioids to pharmacies, including ones that exhibited red flags suggesting they were dispensing opioids illicitly at the height of the opioid epidemic.

  • Rochester's oxycodone distribution grew from 4.7 million tablets in 2012 to 42.2 million in 2016.
  • Its fentanyl distribution grew from about 63,500 dosages in 2012 to about 2.4 million in 2015, and 1.3 million in 2016.
  • Rochester made about $1.2 billion from sales of controlled substances between 2012 and 2016.
  • It then turned around and paid dividends to some of its largest pharmacy purchasers, which were also shareholders. In 2015, it paid a $10.6 million dividend to its largest customer — a pharmacy that was one of the nation's largest dispensers of Subsys, a highly-addictive fentanyl spray.

Go deeper ... Exclusive: Lawsuit says Johnson & Johnson was opioid "kingpin"

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 665,164 — Total deaths: 30,852 — Total recoveries: 140,225.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 124,665 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by early Sunday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health

Gilead expands access to experimental coronavirus drug in emergency cases

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said in an open letter Saturday the company is expanding access to its experimental anti-coronavirus drug remdesivir to include severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The big pig picture: President Trump has called the antiviral drug "promising," but the results of six clinical trials on this investigational medicine are still being conducted, so its effectiveness the treatment of the novel coronavirus has yet to be proved. The World Health Organization is involved in the tests.

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Health