(Reuters) – Federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into whether pharmaceutical companies intentionally allowed opioid painkillers to flood communities, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the matter.
FILE PHOTO: A person holds pharmaceutical tablets and capsules in this picture illustration taken in Ljubljana September 18, 2013.REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic
At least six companies have received grand-jury subpoenas from the U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York – Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (TEVA.TA), Mallinckrodt Plc (MNK.N), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) and Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc (AMRX.N) and distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp (ABC.N) and McKesson Corp (MCK.N), the Journal reported.
Shares of Amneal, Teva and McKesson fell between 3% and 7%, while AmerisourceBergen and Mallinckrodt were down marginally.
The subpoenas were in connection with a Brooklyn federal probe, the Journal reported.
A spokesman for the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.
The probe is in early stages and prosecutors are expected to send subpoenas to other companies in the coming months, the report said, citing one of the sources.
The companies did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Teva, J&J, Amneal and Mallinckrodt disclosed in recent regulatory filings that they received subpoenas from the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, which the companies generally described as regarding their anti-diversion policies and procedures and distribution of opioid medications.
The companies said it was part of a broader investigation into manufacturers’ and distributors’ monitoring programs and reporting under the Controlled Substances Act.
Teva, Mallinckrodt and J&J also said they had received subpoenas from the New York State Department of Financial Services as part of an industry-wide inquiry into the effect of opioid prescriptions on New York health insurance premiums.
Opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy chains have been defending themselves against thousands of lawsuits by state attorneys general, local governments and class actions accusing them of fueling an addiction crisis.
Opioids have contributed to more than 400,000 deaths since 1997, according to government statistics.
Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Bill Berkrot