A Springboro-based pharmaceutical distributor, two of its former executives and two pharmacists, were charged today with conspiring to unlawfully distribute millions of pain killers.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cincinnati announced this afternoon that the federal grand jury has charged the former president of Miami-Luken, the former compliance officer and two West Virginia pharmacists who received shipments from Miami-Luken.
All four were charged with “conspiring to illegally distribute controlled substances,” which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Those charged include:
Anthony Rattini: The 71-year-old former president from Colorado.
James Barclay: The 72-year-old former compliance officer from Springboro.
Devonna Miller-West: A 49-year old pharmacist who owned and operated Westside Pharmacy in Oceana, West Virginia.
Samuel “Randy” Ballengee: A 54-year old pharmacist who owned and operated Tug Valley Pharmacy in Williamson, West Virginia.
There is an outstanding arrest warrant for Barclay and U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman said he urged Barclay to surrender immediately.
The others were arrested this morning by teams of federal agents.
Richard Blake, an attorney who represents Miami-Luken, said they were still reviewing the charges.
"I haven't had an opportunity to review the charges in detail," he said.
Distributors are companies that buy wholesale pharmaceuticals from manufacturers and then distribute them to pharmacies and hospitals.
Several distributors have been accused in recent years of fueling the opioid crisis by failing to let authorities know about suspiciously large orders, which the companies have a legal duty to flag in order to maintain their license.
From 2008 to 2015, Miami-Luken generated more than $173 million in sales per year with more than 70 percent of the profits from wholesale distribution, according to DOJ records. The company supplied pharmaceuticals to more than 200 pharmacies in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana and Tennessee.
“Rattini, Barclay and Miami-Luken sought to enrich themselves by distributing millions of painkillers to doctors and pharmacies in rural Appalachia, where the opioid epidemic was at its peak,” according to a DOJ statement, citing the indictment.
The distributor allegedly continued to distribute millions of pills to Westside, Tug Valley and other pharmacies after being advised by the DEA of a responsibility to report suspicious orders.
Distributors have pointed out that they don’t market opioids, write prescriptions or otherwise create demand. Instead, they were middlemen who filled others’ orders for the painkillers.
The company allegedly distributed more than 2.3 million oxycodone pills to Miller-Wests’s pharmacy in a town of 1,394 people, which the DOJ cited as “obvious signs of abuse.” Ballengee’s pharmacy allegedly received more than 120,000 painkiller pills from Miami-Luken in one month and more than 6 million hydrocodone pills between 2008 and 2014.
Miami-Luken also allegedly provided another 2.2 million pills from 2012 to 2014 to a pharmacy that had been cut off from other wholesalers. Between 2008 and 2011, it allegedly distributed 3.7 million hydrocodone pills to a pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia, a town of 400 people.
Miami-Luken chairman Joseph Mastandrea answered “yes” when asked at a May 2018 hearing before a Congressional committee if he thought distributors’ actions contributed to the opioid crisis. Prior to 2013, the company made “rudimentary efforts” to monitor suspicious orders and decisions on what constituted a suspicious order were made based on “one’s feeling,” Mastandrea said.
At the time, Mastandrea pointed some blame toward management that had already left the company.
This April, the DOJ brought its first ever felony criminal charge against a distributor and its executives when it announced charges against Rochester Drug Co-Operative, based in New York, as well as its former CEO and former chief compliance officer.
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