Animal health company sentenced for drug misbranding


Covetrus pleaded guilty to the criminal charge and was sentenced to probation as well as fines and forfeitures.

Photo: heliopix/

Photo: heliopix/

Covetrus North America LCC pleaded guilty to causing the introduction and delivery of veterinary prescription drugs that were misbranded into interstate commerce and has been sentenced to 1 year probation by a federal court in Abingdon, Virginia. As part of the agreement, Covetrus—based in Portland, Maine—must also pay more than $23 million in criminal forfeitures and fines.1

“The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia takes the distribution of misbranded prescription drugs seriously,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said in a news release from the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Virginia.2 “Covetrus shipped over $20 million in prescription drugs to unauthorized end-users in violation of federal laws that are designed to ensure prescription drugs are kept within a controlled chain of distribution and to prevent diversion and inappropriate use.”

According to the release, the company shipped prescription drugs between March 2019 and December 2021 to multiple Covetrus nonpharmacy locations within the United States and to end-users who were not authorized to receive the drugs. Because these shipments were from nonpharmacy locations to nonauthorized end-users or locations, the shipments were deemed as misbranded.1,2

The case was investigated by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations and the Virginia State Police, with help from the Virginia Department of Health Professions.1 In a statement to dvm360, a Covetrus spokesperson said the company cooperated with the investigation.

"Covetrus North America resolved a criminal investigation that was conducted by the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Virginia regarding the distribution of misbranded prescription veterinary medication," a Covetrus spokesperson told dvm360.

"We fully cooperated with the US Attorney’s office, and we are committed to complying with federal and state laws related to prescription veterinary medication. 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," they continued.

Covetrus must forfeit $25,534,091, pay $1 million to the Virginia Department of Health Professions, and a fine of $1 million. The company must also keep in place appropriate compliance measures as a way to prevent any future violations.1

“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 US public health by increasing the risk that humans will become resistant to antibiotics that we unknowingly consume through our food supply,” George Scavdis, special agent in charge at the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations-Metro Washington Field Office, said.2


  1. Ohio-based Company Will Pay More Than $23 Million in Fines and Forfeiture. News release. U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia. May 9, 2024. Accessed May 10, 2024.
  2. Covetrus Pleads Guilty to Criminal Misbranding of Veterinary Prescription Drugs. News release. U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia. February 12, 2024. Accessed February 13, 2024.
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