CINCINNATI, Ohio - A federal grand jury has indicted pharmaceutical wholesaler Miami-Luken, two of its top former officials, and two pharmacists with conspiring to illegally distribute millions of prescription painkillers in some of the states hit hardest by the opioid epidemic, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
The indictment says the distribution of oxycodone and hydrocodone was "outside the scope of professional practice and not for a legitimate medical purpose," Benjamin C. Glassman, the US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said in the indictment.
Miami-Luken, a drug distributor based in Springboro, Ohio, allegedly failed to report suspicious orders and exercise the care needed to prevent the drugs from being diverted from proper use.
The four individuals charged include Miami-Luken's former president and compliance officer and two West Virginia pharmacists, the release said. They were arrested Thursday morning.
"Today's arrests should be a wake-up call to distributors and pharmacists who are allowing opioid prescription pills to be illegally sold and dispensed from their facilities," said Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Administrator John Martin.
The wholesaler distributed 2.6 million hydrocodone tablets and 2.3 million units of oxycodone to a pharmacy in a West Virginia town of only 1,400 people between 2011 and 2015, the Justice Department said. One of the pharmacists operated in that town, the indictment says.
The wholesaler also shipped more than 1.8 millions oxycodone tablets to a pharmacy that was under DEA investigation.
It's the second time distributors have been criminally charged with these crimes. In April, two former executives of Rochester Drug Co-Operative were charged with illegally distributing opioids and conspiring to defraud the US Drug Enforcement Agency.
Miami-Luken sold drugs in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia, according to the Justice Department.
CNN was unable to contact company officials Thursday. In January, the Dayton Daily News reported the company was in the process of closing.
If convicted, the defendants could face 20 years in prison.
Opioids, a class of pharmaceuticals that include prescription painkillers as well as illicit drugs like heroin, are at the root of an ongoing public health crisis in the US. In 2017, there were 47,600 opioid-linked drug fatalities in the United States -- more than the number of deaths linked to breast cancer -- according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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