Within the context of all the misery and suffering brought on by the opioid epidemic, the filing of criminal charges against another drug trafficker may not seem like a big deal.
But a case that surfaced in New York takes a significant leap in casting executives of drug manufacturers and distributors in the light that much of the public sees them — as simple drug dealers, not unlike the ones that Huntington police arrest and charge all the time.
Only in the case of the drug company executives, the volume of pills used illicitly can far exceed the drugs purveyed by the common street dealer.
In the New York case, Laurence Doud III, the retired CEO of the Rochester Drug Co-Operative, was arraigned recently on two counts of conspiracy related to drug trafficking. According to prosecutors, Doud is the first drug industry executive or former executive to face drug-trafficking charges.
If the charges leveled against Doud are true, then calling his activities drug trafficking appears to be justified. Prosecutors say he turned his small New York firm into a supplier of last resort for independent pharmacies whose dubious practices got them cut off by other distributors, an indictment unsealed in late April alleges.
Although Doud claims he is being used as a scapegoat to cover up wrongdoing by others, data trotted out by prosecutors certainly suggest something was awry at Doud’s company during the last few years.
According to prosecutors and an Associated Press report, from 2012 to 2016, Rochester’s sales of oxycodone tablets skyrocketed from 4.7 million to 42.2 million — an increase of about 800% — and its fentanyl sales soared from approximately 63,000 dosages in 2012 to more than 1.3 million in 2016. During the same period, the company’s internal compliance office flagged 8,300 orders but reported just four to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
To date, much of the litigation blaming the prescription drug manufacturing and distribution industry for this nation’s opioid crisis has taken place in civil court.
But it is refreshing to think that at least one set of prosecutors is willing to take a case into the criminal realm if they think an individual should be held accountable for what appear to be reckless actions.
After all, more than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2017, according to the AP. If that’s not criminal, what is?
— Huntington (W.Va.) Herald-Dispatch