Johnson & Johnson, Teva, others face federal criminal probe into opioid sales: WSJ

Gavel money handcuffs fraud
Six opioid makers and distributors are reportedly involved in the probe, but more subpoenas may soon be filed, The Wall Street Journal said. (Pixabay)

Facing thousands of state and local civil lawsuits, opioid makers including Teva and Johnson & Johnson are scrambling to ink a deal to escape the multibillion-dollar legal overhang. But civil charges could be the least of the drugmakers' concerns, with the feds reportedly gearing up for a criminal probe into their opioid businesses.

Federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into claims opioid makers and distributors willfully violated the Controlled Substance Act by allowing those drugs to be used for nonmedical purposes, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

The scope of the investigation is not clear, but at least six drugmakers and distributors––J&J, Teva, Mallinckrodt, Amneal, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson––have acknowledged receiving federal subpoenas in Securities and Exchange Commission filings. 

A criminal investigation would represent a significant escalation in charges against the opioid industry as thousands of state and local civil lawsuits could be nearing resolutions.

In late October, Teva offered a whopping $23 billion "framework" deal to end the lawsuits it faces, with the vast majority of that settlement tied to donations of buprenorphine naloxone, an opioid addiction treatment, over the next 10 years. The offer also included $250 million in cash. 

RELATED: Teva taps new CFO, hikes legal set-aside to more than $1B as opioid deal falters

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