April 23, 2019 / 3:38 PM / 5 months ago

U.S. sues Rochester drug distributor over suspicious opioid orders

NEW YORK, April 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Tuesday filed a civil lawsuit accusing Rochester Drug-Cooperative Inc, a large opioid distributor, of failing to report thousands of suspicious orders for controlled substances as part of a years-long drive to bolster profit.

The Department of Justice said in a complaint that Rochester ignored its legal obligation to detect and report suspicious orders by pharmacy customers, and from May 2012 to November 2016 reported just four out of more than 2,000 such orders to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The Justice Department said this helped Rochester more than quadruple sales of controlled substances from 2012 to 2016, with its former chief executive earning "millions of dollars" in compensation as a result.

"RDC's top management, including its former Chief Executive Officer, instilled a culture of non-compliance at the company and prioritized attracting business, catering to existing customers, and making money above all else," the complaint said.

A spokesman for Rochester had no immediate comment. The office of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan also had no immediate comment.

Rochester is privately-held, and competes with drug distributors including publicly-traded AmerisourceBergen Corp , Cardinal Health Inc and McKesson Corp.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

It was filed one day after the New York Times said Berman and the DEA were wrapping up a probe that could result in a criminal case involving Rochester, the first such case involving a major opioid distributor. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown)

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