The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is focusing on drug distributors in an effort to fight prescription painkiller abuse, The New York Times reports. In the past, the agency has tried tactics including arresting doctors and closing pharmacies.
Drug distributors are now trying to limit their liability by monitoring their distribution pipeline more closely, and refusing to supply some pharmacy customers.
Earlier this year, the DEA charged drug distributor Cardinal Health and four pharmacies with violating their licenses to sell controlled drugs. The DEA said Cardinal had an unusually high number of shipments of controlled painkillers to four pharmacies. The agency suspended Cardinal’s controlled substance license at its distribution center in Lakeland, Florida. The center serves 2,500 pharmacies in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
Cardinal no longer does business with a dozen pharmacies in at least four states, the article notes. Some of the drugstores unsuccessfully sued the company to resume shipments. Cardinal’s Chairman and Chief Executive, George S. Barrett, said the company has strengthened the criteria it uses in deciding whether to sell painkillers to a pharmacy. “We had a strong antidiversion system in place, but no system is perfect,” he told the newspaper. Cardinal has created a committee that evaluates pharmacies that order large amounts of narcotic drugs.
In August, Amerisource Bergen, the third-largest drug distributor in the United States, received subpoenas from the DEA and federal prosecutors seeking information on how the company monitors for possible diversions of opioids and other drugs with high potential for abuse.