DEA, Cardinal Health face off over painkiller sales

Earlier this month, the Drug Enforcement Administration suspended Cardinal Health’s license to distribute controlled substances, accusing the company – which is one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceuticals – of selling excessive amounts of oxycodone to four Florida pharmacies. (The suspension relates only to the company’s license to distribute controlled substances from its Lakeland, Fla. facility, which the DEA claims shipped 50 times as much oxycodone to its top four customers than it has shipped to its other Florida retail customers.) Cardinal has challenged the suspension in federal court, and both the company and the DEA recently filed documents that give an inside look into how prescription painkillers have flooded the black market.

The DEA alleges that Cardinal knew or should have known that the pharmacies were inappropriately filling prescriptions issued by DEA-licensed physicians for non-medical reasons.

Meanwhile, Cardinal has been granted a temporary restraining order blocking the suspension after convincing a judge that the move would disrupt drug shipments to more than 2,500 pharmacy customers in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The company says it has “robust controls and performs careful due diligence,” noting that in the past four years, it has stopped shipping controlled medicines to more than 350 pharmacies it determined posed an unreasonable risk of diversion, including 160 in Florida alone.

About Erin Marie Daly

I’m a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. My book on prescription drug and heroin addiction was published in August 2014 by Counterpoint Press.
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