Drug company with Colorado ties to pay $150 million penalty for suspicious opioid shipments

A company that shipped increasing amounts of oxycodone and hydrocodone pills out of its Aurora distribution center has agreed to pay a record $150 million civil penalty for alleged violations of the Controlled Substances Act, authorities say.

McKesson Corporation was penalized for failing to report suspicious orders of the drugs that are frequently misused during the current opioid epidemic, according to a news release on Tuesday by Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer and DEA Denver Division Special Agent in Charge Barbra Roach.

“When drug distributors like McKesson fail to alert the DEA of suspicious orders of prescription drugs by pharmacies, the end result can be fatal,” Troyer said in a statement.

Prosecutors from U.S. Attorney’s offices in Colorado and West Virginia spearheaded the national investigation. They accused McKesson of failing to detect and report suspicious orders of controlled substances distributed to independent and small-chain pharmacy customers.

McKesson agreed to a $13.5 million civil penalty for similar violations in 2008, the news release says. But the company failed to fully implement or follow a compliance program it instituted to meet government requirements.

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, the news release says.

The Aurora distribution center circumvented its own compliance system to avoid reporting suspicious orders to the DEA, the news release says. As a result, orders that deviated from the normal pattern of the pharmacy customer’s orders did not get reported to the DEA.

The investigation included DEA agents from across the country.

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