First ever Big Pharma execs going to prison for distribution of controlled drugs, face life behind bars
America's FDA approved drug lords might be facing consequences
The righteous hammer of justice is finally coming down on America’s white-collar corporate executive drug kingpins: the big-wigs of Big Pharma.
On April 23rd Laurence Doud III (75) and William Pietruszwski (53) of Rochester Drug Co-Operative became the first Big Pharma executives to face criminal charges for distributing opioids in the U.S. They were charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and conspiracy to fraud the U.S. government.
Both men face life in prison.
And good-fucking-riddance. Between 2012 and 2016 Rochester Drug Co-Operative distributed tens of millions of doses of Oxycodone, fentanyl and other opioids to pharmacies that had no legitimate need for them. The boys at Rochester Drug Cop-Op knew that they were fueling the opioid crisis, they knew that they were providing drugs to pharmacies that were getting people hooked, people who were ruining their lives with them, who couldn’t stop. Yet these greedy corporate gargoyles turned a blind eye, ignored the red flags and engaged in business with pharmacies they knew were up to no good. And all to turn a massive profit.
Which they certainly did. In those four years, their sales of Oxycodone increased nine-fold (from 4.7 million to 42.2 million) and their fentanyl sales skyrocketed from 63,000 dosages in 2012 to 2.3 million in 2016. Doud himself saw his annual income balloon to $1.5 million.
As Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York said, “Doud cared more about profits than the laws intended to protect human life.”
This is a huge moment in America’s struggle with the opioid crisis. So far, this country has allowed corporate drug distributers free reign to peddle as much drugs as possible, to make as much money as possible, regardless of the social and physical damage to our society that that business model was causing. These people are State-sanctioned drug lords; cartel leaders like El Chapo and Pablo Escobar — only, unlike those cocaine kings, these drugs have an FDA stamp of approval. The mis-deeds of Big Pharma are “lawful,” and therefore unpunishable.
Even if they’re just as damaging.
Well, this could be a sign that that is starting to change. If the feds start taking legal action against the corporate pill-mongers of America, maybe Big Pharma execs will think twice before flippantly dishing out opioids by the ton.
Maybe. Really, though, the only reason that Dole and Pietruszwski got caught was because they were so blatantly ignoring regulations and over-selling prescription drugs. Between 2012 and 2016 the company identified 8,300 suspicious orders of opioid drugs… Of which, they only reported only four.
For companies who are still banking off of America’s opioid addiction and doing so according to federal rules and regulations, penance won’t be so easily delivered.
And, while the two former executives are likely to live out the rest of their days behind bars, the company itself is still moving forward with business operations. They issued an apology statement, paid a $20 million fine and are “reforming their compliance program.” Beyond that, things will proceed as normal for Rochester Drug Co-Operative.
“We made mistakes ... and RDC understands that these mistakes, directed by former management, have serious consequences," Jeff Eller, a spokesperson for Rochester Drug Co-Operative, said as he rubbed his nipples in mock remorse. "We accept responsibility for those mistakes. We can do better, we are doing better, and we will do better.”
While these arrests and convictions look like real justice, they also only represent a drop in the bucket. So two corporate drug executives, who scammed the system at the expense of people’s health, are going to prison. What about the rest of them? What about the others? When will they get their comeuppance?
It’s reminiscent of 2009 when Bernie Madoff went to jail for embezzling $170 billion. Everyone alpplauded, everyone shook hands and congratulated eachother. “We did it!” People proclaimed. “We finally cracked down on white collar crime.”
But we didn’t did we? We just put one old rich white man in jail because he stole money from some other rich white people. White collar crime in America still continued unimpeded. No one else went to jail — even though many, many others should have.
Hopefully this isn’t a similar case, but the cynic in me says we won’t see the dam breaking any time soon. Dole and Pietruszwski are getting locked up because they got too cocky. As for the Big Pharma execs out there who are taking care to cover their asses and follow the “rules”… they will probably never see justice.
Still, Berman is confident that he and his team will not stop here.
“This prosecution is the first of its kind: Executives of a pharmaceutical distributor and the distributor itself have been charged with drug trafficking, trafficking the same drugs that are fueling the opioid epidemic that is ravaging this country," Berman said. "Our office will do everything in its power to combat this epidemic, from street-level dealers to the executives who illegally distribute drugs from their boardrooms.”