FedEx's dispute with DoJ over illicit-drug delivery widens to include money laundering charges

Will federal legislation resolve ongoing DEA/drug-distributor conflicts?

An indictment from the US Attorney, Northern District of California, over past practices of FedEx in mail-order drug deliveries, announced in July, has been expanded to include money laundering charges. That addition is apparently from FedEx’s standard service of collecting payments on behalf of some customers; FedEx's collect on delivery service "is available to all of our millions of FedEx Express customers,” Patrick Fitzgerald, a company spokesman, told the Wall Street Journal, while reiterating that FedEx disputes all the charges the Dept. of Justice has brought against it.

The original conspiracy indictment charged that FedEx had knowingly made deliveries to individuals and pharmacies who were improperly ordering controlled substances—legitimate prescription products, mostly opioid-based painkillers—that are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration. UPS made an out-of-court settlement with DoJ over more or less the same dispute in 2013; in recent years, most major drug wholesalers, and several chain pharmacies, have tangled with DoJ over drug-distribution and —dispensing issues. Intensifying all of this comes from the mounting death toll and social harm caused by abuse of prescription products.

Almost at the same time that the FedEx indictment was handed down, the House of Representatives cleared bipartisan legislation, HR 4709, the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act. That bill, among other things, sets up a process for DEA-registered distributors to “submit corrective action plans to address DEA concerns,” according to the Healthcare Distribution Management Assn, which has lobbied for its passage. HDMA is a participant in a trade group, the Alliance to Prevent the Abuse of Medicines (www.rxabusesolutions.org), whose members include the American Medical Assn., Cardinal Health, CVS Caremark, Prime Therapeutics, Kaleo, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Millennium Laboratories, that was organized early this year. The friction between DEA and drug distributors is one of several issues that APAM wants to address; others include expanding state-level prescription-drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and encouraging the use of abuse-deterrent technologies in drug products.