DEA Targets Large Industry Players in Fight Against Prescription Drug Abuse

When the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) recently charged a major health care company and four pharmacies with violating their licenses to sell controlled drugs, it marked the most aggressive efforts by the agency to combat prescription drug abuse, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The DEA said Cardinal Health had an unusually high number of shipments of controlled painkillers to four pharmacies. The agency suspended Cardinal Health’s controlled substance license at its distribution center in Lakeland, Florida. The center serves 2,500 pharmacies in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. After the DEA suspended the company’s license, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against the DEA’s suspension order.

The agency also moved to suspend four pharmacies in Sanford, Florida, including two CVS pharmacies, from selling controlled substances.

A federal judge has granted CVS a temporary restraining order, which will allow the company to continue to sell controlled prescription drugs at two pharmacies in Florida. Judge Amy Berman Jackson, of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said it was likely CVS will be able to show that the DEA did not establish the “imminent danger to public health” that is needed to suspend pharmacies’ registrations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the DEA said the pharmacies were dispensing “staggering” amounts of oxycodone. The agency also said in 2011, Cardinal shipped enough oxycodone to Sanford to give 59 of the pills to every man, woman, and child there.

The DEA’s strategy targets not only individual doctors and patients, but also retail chains and suppliers. The agency wants these companies to closely monitor where their drugs are going, and to quickly act on signs they are being diverted.

Both Cardinal and CVS deny any wrongdoing, and say they did react quickly when they saw signs of problems with controlled drugs. Cardinal said it needs better guidance from the DEA on how it should police the pharmacies and hospitals it distributes drugs to.

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    February 15, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    What about the drug companies themselves? Aren’t they the biggest players? I have had DEA agents tell me that the drug companies could be much more selective about the organization to which they ship their products. Those pill mills in Florida couldn’t have existed without the cooperation of the drug companies.

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    February 15, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    The DEA is not attacking those that need prescriptions for legitimate reasons. With such a huge number of pain killers coming out of a small area, they had to investigate. The CDC reports that 1 person overdoses from prescription drugs every 19 minutes. Now, more people die from unintentional poisonings than car crashes. Doctors, pharmacists, and the DEA are balancing the need for these medicines and our safety. Luckily Jack, if you shop at CVS, there’s another one right around the corner! I know that dealing with chronic pain can be frustrating and complicated. Dealing with addiction is as well.

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    February 15, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    I hope those floks in the DEA never have to face pain. Closeing drug stores will not stop black market drugs. This only makes it hard on those people who truly need it. There are already too many rules on getting the needed meds

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