Cardinal settles with DEA over painkiller distribution

Cardinal Health has reached a deal with the Drug Enforcement Administration that will block one of its Florida facilities from distributing controlled substances for two years. The company also said it will take steps to improve anti-diversion procedures designed to prevent prescription drugs from being abused.

Earlier this year, the DEA suspended Cardinal’s license after finding that the company – which is one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceuticals – sold excessive amounts of oxycodone to four Florida pharmacies. (The suspension related 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 challenged the suspension in federal court, and both the company and the DEA filed documents that gave an inside look into how prescription painkillers have flooded the black market.

Cardinal was initially 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 said 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.

Separately in 2008, the company paid $34 million to resolve claims that it did not tell the DEA about suspicious orders for hydrocodone.

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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