Drug Exec Jailed Over Jumbo Morphine Pills

By Dirk Hanson 04/16/11

KV Pharmaceutical specialized in manufacturing oversized morphine sulfate tablets—an overdose waiting to happen.

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The Big Gulp: Take two and call me in the morning.... if you can.
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Too much of a good thing led the former CEO of KV Pharmaceutical directly to jail, after a guilty plea on charges of manufacturing oversized morphine sulfate tablets—a bigger bang for the buck that could have lead to unintentional overdoses. The US Department of Justice said KV Pharmaceutical had been subject to several recalls and citations for selling unapproved drugs in 2008 and 2009. In addition to generic versions of oversized morphine pills, agents found generic dextroamphetamine tablets with an illegal amount of active ingredients. Marc Hermelin will serve 30 days in jail—actual jail time is very rare in such cases—and pay $1 million in fines, plus forfeiting $900,00 in pay. The feds have banned Hermelin from doing any future business with federal health care programs, including Medicare, the nation's biggest purchases of prescription drugs, which pretty much spells an end to  Hermelin's career in the drug industry. The jail sentence is a response to increasing pressure on federal agencies to get tough with drug execs whose companies are found guilty of major safety violations.

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Dirk Hanson, MA, is a freelance science writer and the author of The Chemical Carousel: What Science Tells Us About Beating Addiction. He is also the author of The New Alchemists: Silicon Valley and the Microelectronics Revolution. He has worked as a business and science reporter for numerous magazines and trade publications including Wired, Scientific American, The Dana Foundation and more. He currently edits the Addiction Inbox blog. Email: [email protected]