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Well-Known Shipping and Pharmaceutical Companies Being Fined For Their Part In The Illegal Drug Trade

FedEx was indicted for delivering prescription painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs, sedatives and other controlled substances for illegal internet pharmacies. The operator of the world's largest cargo airline was charged by the U.S. with 15 counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, misbranded drugs and drug trafficking.  The potential fine can be twice the amount of the money gained from the conduct. The  fines are said to be at least $820 million for the company and co-conspirators. FedEx has denied any wrong doing.

The indictment was given on Thursday the 17th, 2014 of July in San Francisco, California's federal court. More than a year ago in a similar situation, the United Parcel Service (UPS) agreed to forfeit $40 million in payments it received from illicit online pharmacies under a non-prosecution agreement with the United States Justice Department. According to Larry Cote, an attorney and ex-associate chief counsel at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, The criminal case is an unprecedented escalation of the federal crackdown on organizations and individuals to combat prescription drug abuse. “Targeting a company that’s two, three steps removed from the actual doctor-patient, pharmacy-patient relationship is unprecedented,” said Cote, who advises companies in the drug supply chain on compliance matters.

FedEx and UPS are not the only companies being fined for their part in the illegal drug trade. Walgreens, a very popular pharmacy chain in the United States, agreed to pay an $80 million civil fine last year to resolve allegations that distribution center and pharmacies in Florida failed to report suspicious drug orders of oxycodone and knew, or should have known, that prescriptions filled weren't for legitimate medical use, according to the DEA. Along the same lines as Walgreens, CVS, also a well-known pharmacy chain in the United States agreed to pay a $78 million fine in 2010 to settle claims that some stores in California and Nevada allowed criminals to buy cold medications that were used to make methamphetamine.

The charges against FedEx will put an extreme strain on mail order pharmacies. Many of the online pharmacies rely on express shipping to get the medications to their clients as quickly as possible. With the government stepping in and fining these companies, expect for many internet pharmacies to shut down. “The DEA does believe that everyone in the supply chain is responsible and has an obligation to understand where their products are ending up,” said Cote, calling that “a stretch.”

Expecting all companies to accept responsibility of these issues seems to be a little tough. I doubt highly that these companies were aware of the amount of illegal activity that was going on. They are only one step in a chain of many for criminals to successfully obtain and sell these drugs. Many of these companies are so massive that it will be nearly impossible for them to control what is passed through the hands of every employee and every package. The government obviously means business and they expect higher accountability.


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