AmerisourceBergen subpoenaed in U.S. drug probe

An employee loads drugs at the AmerisourceBergen warehouse. The Chesterbrook drug distributor is part of an investigation.
An employee loads drugs at the AmerisourceBergen warehouse. The Chesterbrook drug distributor is part of an investigation. (Inquirer file)
Posted: August 11, 2012

Pharmaceutical wholesaler AmerisourceBergen Corp. said Thursday that it has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey to provide records for a grand jury investigation into illegal use of controlled substances.

AmerisourceBergen, which has its headquarters in Chesterbrook and is the third largest drug wholesaler in the country, said that it is cooperating with the investigation.

Overdoses of prescription pain medicine kill more Americans than cocaine and heroin, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a recent report.

Federal and state authorities have tried to crack down on prescribers and suppliers who they suspect of breaking the law. Sometimes that means so-called pill mills in strip malls, but large corporations have been sued and sanctioned.

In the legal section of its quarterly report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, AmerisourceBergen said the May 4 subpoena sought documents concerning the company's "program for controlling and monitoring diversion of controlled substances into channels other than for legitimate medical, scientific, and industrial purposes."

The company said it also received a subpoena from the Drug Enforcement Administration in connection with the matter.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey declined comment.

"We take the safety and security of the supply chain very seriously and we will continue to cooperate with the authorities," AmerisourceBergen spokeswoman Barbara Brungess said by e-mail.

A subpoena for documents does not automatically mean a company is the focus of an investigation. As the company said in its filing, the subpoena requested documents "concerning specific customers' purchases of controlled substances."

However, AmerisourceBergen and several other wholesalers are named defendants in a suit filed by the West Virginia attorney general. According to the SEC filing, the suit alleges, among other things, "that the distributors failed to provide effective controls and procedures to guard against diversion of controlled substances for illegitimate purposes in West Virginia."

In late July, the companies filed motions to move the case from state court to federal court in West Virginia.


Contact staff writer David Sell at dsell@ phillynews.com or 215-854-4506. Read his blog at www.philly.com/phillypharma and on Twitter @phillypharma.

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