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Company pleads guilty to misbranding veterinary prescription drugs

Covetrus provides veterinary pharmacy services for thousands of practices across the U.S. It pleaded guilty to sending drugs to unauthorized users.
Person holds a generic pill in front of a cat.
Posted at 1:46 PM, Feb 14, 2024

A leading veterinary products company has agreed to pay $23 million in criminal fines and forfeitures after it pleaded guilty to causing the introduction and delivery of misbranded veterinary prescription drugs into interstate commerce. 

The Department of Justice said Covetrus, an Ohio-based company, shipped over $20 million in prescription drugs from non-pharmacy locations to those not authorized to receive prescription drugs. The DOJ says shipments from non-pharmacy locations to non-authorized users are deemed "misbranded."

Like for drugs intended for humans, the Food and Drug Administration also regulates veterinary medications. 

As part of the agreement, Covetrus will forfeit over $21 million in sales and pay $1 million to the Virginia Department of Health Professions. The company will also pay a $1 million fine and implement appropriate compliance measures to prevent future violations. 

“The FDA recognizes the importance of controlling the prescription drug supply for animals. The careless or uncontrolled distribution of prescription animal drugs poses a danger not only to the medicated animals but to the U.S. public health by increasing the risk that humans will become resistant to antibiotics that we unknowingly consume through our food supply,” said Special Agent in Charge George Scavdis of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations.  “We will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who distribute prescription animal drugs unlawfully.”

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According to Covetrus, it provides prescription services for more than 12,000 practices, largely by providing online pharmacy services for vet practices. 

"We fully cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s office, and we are committed to complying with federal and state laws related to prescription veterinary medication," the company said in a statement. "Covetrus’ mission is to help veterinarians drive better financial and clinical outcomes, and doing so in a way that is compliant with all federal and state laws."

Covetrus is not the only company to have been found guilty of misbranding veterinary prescription drugs. 

Last year, Midwest Veterinary Supply agreed to pay over $11 million in criminal fines and forfeiture for the same offense. The Department of Justice said Midwest Veterinary Supply failed to keep drugs within a controlled chain of distribution.