At least six drug companies have received grand jury subpoenas for a criminal investigation into whether they intentionally allowed opioid painkillers to flood communities by employing laws normally used to go after drug dealers, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York has issued writs to Teva Pharmaceutical, Mallinckrodt, Johnson & Johnson, Amneal Pharmaceuticals and distributors AmerisourceBergen and McKesson Corp.
Shares of Amneal, Teva and McKesson fell between 3 percent and 7 percent, while AmerisourceBergen and Mallinckrodt were down marginally.
The subpoenas were issued in relation to the Controlled Substances Act, which requires companies to monitor commonly abused drugs including, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the “actual or relative potential for abuse” and the “history and current pattern of abuse.”
Just three weeks ago Teva placed an additional $468 million aside for legal settlements related to the opioid crisis, raising its provisions for various lawsuits to nearly $1.2 billion. But the figures each company comes up could never equal the human cost, experts say.
“No matter how much goes in there, it will not be enough,” said Roger Michalski, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Law who has closely followed the opioid lawsuits, recently told The Washington Post, “The scale of the problem is so massive, and it’s much easier to cause harm than to fix harm.”
From 1999 to 2017, nearly 218,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.