Pharmaceutical Distributor, 2 Pharmacies Investigated by DEA for Alleged Illicit Distribution of Painkillers

Two pharmacies and a major pharmaceutical distributor have had their licenses to distribute controlled substances recently suspended by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The DEA alleges that they were illicitly distributing the painkiller oxycodone and other medications. In its ongoing effort to crack down on narcotic painkiller abuse, the DEA has turned its attention to the pharmacies and distributors that dispense the drugs, in addition to the doctors who write the prescriptions. This issue concerns us because of the possibility of medication errors in dealing with dangerous drugs like oxycodone.

The two CVS pharmacies, both located in Sanford, Florida, came to the DEA’s attention because of an allegedly high number of prescriptions filled there for oxycodone and other controlled medications. Oxycodone is an opiate narcotic painkiller. The DEA tightly regulates it because of its high potential for abuse. Florida pharmacies reportedly account for more oxycodone prescriptions than the rest of the nation combined, and Florida is at the center of the DEA’s campaign against prescription drug abuse. A pharmacist at one of the locations reportedly told DEA investigators that the store would frequently run out of oxycodone within several hours of opening at 8:00 a.m., and sometimes within thirty minutes of opening. The DEA claims that records from the two pharmacies show that they filled an an unusually high number of a specific “prescription cocktail” consisting of oxycodone, muscle relaxants, and certain anti-anxiety medications.

At the same time, the DEA was investigating the Lakeland, Florida distribution center of Cardinal Health, which is the second-largest distributor of pharmaceuticals in the country. DEA investigators suspected that the Cardinal facility was shipping a greater amount of oxycodone to several area pharmacies, including the two Sanford CVS locations, than was warranted. In the previous three years, the DEA found that Cardinal had apparently shipped 7.5 million oxycodone pills to these two stores. In total, they said that Cardinal had shipped over 12 million pills to the four pharmacies under investigation. They also alleged that the company never inquired about the high volume of orders for oxycodone and other drugs from these stores, nor did they investigate the pharmacy locations.

The DEA suspended Cardinal’s license to distribute controlled substances from the Lakeland investigation pending an administrative hearing. It also suspended the controlled substance licenses of the two CVS stores. Cardinal reached an agreement with the DEA on the issue of its license suspension. It agreed to a suspension of its controlled substance license at the Lakeland facility for a two-year period. This does not however, address the issue of civil penalties, and the DEA has said it may still pursue Cardinal for fines and other penalties for “neglect[ing] its vital responsibility to prevent the diversion of controlled substances.” The licenses of the two CVS locations remain suspended while they await a hearing before a federal administrative judge. CVS has asserted that it has nothing to gain from illicit distribution of prescription medications, and that its high volume is due to its location near a major highway and its 24-hour pharmacy schedule.

Kansas City pharmacy error lawyer Doug Horn helps people who have suffered injury due to a medication error in a pharmacy or hospital recover compensation for their damages. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today through our website or at (816) 795-7500.