FedEx Corp. may be the largest drug dealer in the United States, according to a 27-page indictment handed down by the United States District Court on July 17.
Today (July 29), the corporation, which faces fines of at least twice the $820 million profits it gained for transporting illegal drugs, pleaded not guilty on 15 counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and misbranded drugs and drug trafficking.
“We are a transportation company, not a pharmacy, not a website, not a doctor,” Cris Arguedas, a lawyer for FedEx.
According to the indictment, from at least as early as 2004, DEA, FDA and members of Congress and their staff informed FedEx that illegal Internet pharmacies were using its shipping services to distribute controlled substances and prescription drugs in violation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), and numerous state laws. In 2004, FedEx established an Online Pharmacy Credit Policy requiring that all online pharmacy shippers be approved by the Credit Department prior to opening a new account. The stated reason for this policy was that many Internet pharmacies operated outside federal and state regulations over the sale of controlled drugs and many sites had been shut down by the government without warning, leaving a large balance owed to FedEx. According to the indictment, FedEx also established a Sales policy in which all online pharmacies were assigned to a “catchall” classification to protect the commission-based compensation of its sales professionals from the volatility caused by online pharmacies moving shipping locations often to avoid detection by the DEA.
According to the indictment, as early as 2004, FedEx knew that it was delivering drugs to dealers and addicts. FedEx’s couriers in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia expressed safety concerns that were circulated to FedEx Senior management, including that FedEx trucks were stopped on the road by online pharmacy customers demanding packages of pills, that the delivery address was a parking lot, school, or vacant home where several car loads of people were waiting for the FedEx driver to arrive with their drugs, that customers were jumping on the FedEx trucks and demanding online pharmacy packages, and that FedEx drivers were threatened if they insisted on delivering packages to the addresses instead of giving the packages to customers who demanded them. In response to these concerns, FedEx adopted a procedure whereby Internet pharmacy packages from problematic shippers were held for pick up at specific stations, rather than delivered to the recipient’s address.
As Bloomberg reports: “…the United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) agreed last year to forfeit $40 million in payments from illicit online pharmacies under a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. Walgreen Co. (WAG) and CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS) have paid a total of more than $150 million in civil fines over claims they sold medications knowing they weren’t for legitimate medical use.”