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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Jersey

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

McKesson Agrees To Pay Record $150 Million Settlement For Failure To Report Suspicious Orders Of Pharmaceutical Drugs

WASHINGTON – McKesson Corp. (McKesson), one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceutical drugs, has agreed to pay a record $150 million civil penalty for alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman and DEA Special Agent in Charge Carl J. Kotowski announced today.

“The epidemic of opioid abuse is carving an increasingly destructive path through our country,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “But nearly a decade ago, McKesson was sanctioned for violations that were contributing to the misuse of these prescription painkillers. Given a chance to implement a more robust system for monitoring the distribution of these products, the company instead chose to ignore its own compliance regime in favor of a bigger bottom-line. The consequences of McKesson's decision to circumvent its obligations are too devastating to ignore and warrant today's punishment.”


“Pharmaceutical companies are our first line of defense in the fight against prescription opioid abuse,” SAC Kotowski said. “If they turn a blind eye to suspicious orders of pharmaceutical controlled substances they are contributing to this epidemic. This settlement sends a clear message that even corporations need to do their part to fight this devastating opioid epidemic.”


The nationwide settlement requires McKesson to suspend sales of controlled substances from distribution centers in Colorado, Ohio, Michigan and Florida for multiple years. The staged suspensions are among the most severe sanctions ever agreed to by a DEA registered distributor. The settlement also imposes new and enhanced compliance obligations on McKesson’s distribution system.


In 2008, McKesson agreed to a $13.25 million civil penalty and administrative agreement for similar violations. In this case, the government alleged again that McKesson failed to design and implement an effective system to detect and report “suspicious orders” for controlled substances distributed to its independent and small chain pharmacy customers – orders that are unusual in their frequency, size, or other patterns. From 2008 until 2013, McKesson supplied various U.S. pharmacies an increasing amount of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills, frequently misused products that are part of the current opioid epidemic.


The government’s investigation developed evidence that even after designing a compliance program after the 2008 settlement, McKesson did not fully implement or adhere to its own program. In Colorado, for example, McKesson processed more than 1.6 million orders for controlled substances from June 2008 through May 2013, but reported just 16 orders as suspicious, all connected to one instance related to a recently terminated customer.


In addition to the monetary penalties and suspensions, the government and McKesson agreed to enhanced compliance terms for the next five years. Among other things, McKesson has agreed to specific, rigorous staffing and organizational improvements; periodic auditing; and stipulated financial penalties for failing to adhere to the compliance terms. Critically, the settlement will require McKesson to engage an independent monitor to assess compliance – the first independent monitor of its kind in a CSA civil penalty settlement.


This was a multi-district investigation that involved DEA Field Divisions in the following locations: Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Newark, San Francisco, St. Louis, and the Washington District Office. The following U.S. Attorney’s Offices participated in the case: Central District of California, Eastern District of California, District of Colorado, Middle District of Florida, Eastern District of Kentucky, Northern District of Illinois, District of Massachusetts, Eastern District of Michigan, District of Nebraska, District of New Jersey, Northern District of West Virginia, and Western District of Wisconsin.


In the District of New Jersey, the government was represented by Senior Litigation Counsel Anthony J. LaBruna and Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Orlowski of the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the District of Colorado and the Northern District of West Virginia, along with DEA Office of Chief Counsel and Diversion Control Division, led the civil settlement negotiations. DEA’s Denver, Detroit and Miami Field Divisions, and its Washington Division Office led the administrative and civil investigation. The Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section (NDDS) also coordinated and assisted in negotiating certain portions of the settlement.

Updated January 18, 2017