Walgreen Florida Facility Barred From Shipping Oxycodone
Walgreen Co. (WAG) was blocked from shipping controlled substances from a distribution center in Jupiter, Florida, after a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration probe into the sales of painkiller oxycodone found the facility posed a threat to public safety.
The Walgreen center was served today by the DEA with an immediate suspension order that bars it from handling controlled substances including oxycodone and hydrocodone, pending administrative proceedings by the agency, according to an agency statement. The Jupiter facility, one of a dozen owned and operated by Walgreen, has been the single largest distributor of oxycodone products in Florida since 2009, the DEA said.
“The diversion of pharmaceutical controlled substances is a great concern for the DEA,” Mark Trouville, DEA special agent in charge of the Miami field division, said in a statement. “All DEA registrants have an obligation to ensure that medications are getting into the hands of legitimate patients, and when they choose to look the other way patients suffer and drug dealers prosper.”
Today’s action is part of a crackdown by the agency on retail pharmacies and drug distributors for high sales of oxycodone in Florida, considered by U.S. officials to be the epicenter of prescription drug abuse.
Earlier this week, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart ordered that the controlled substance licenses for two CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS) pharmacies in Sanford, Florida be permanently revoked.
In May, Cardinal Health Inc. (CAH), the second-largest U.S. drug distributor by revenue, agreed to suspend shipments of controlled drugs from a Florida facility for two years in a settlement with the DEA.
Federal officials contended that the Lakeland, Florida, distribution center posed a public safety threat by shipping large quantities of oxycodone to pharmacies, including CVS.
The Walgreen facility distributed solely to other Walgreen pharmacies in the state and the east coast, according to the DEA statement.
In 2011, the average pharmacy in the U.S. ordered about 73,000 oxycodone dosage units. That year, the six Walgreen’s pharmacies identified as the company’s top oxycodone buyers in Florida each ordered from 1.2 million to 2.1 million dosage units, according to the agency.
The DEA served inspection warrants on the facility and the six pharmacies in April.
“We have taken a number of steps since mid-2011 to enhance our monitoring and reporting criteria,” Michael Polzin, a Walgreen spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “These actions have resulted in a 35 percent drop in the number of tablets dispensed by our pharmacies in Florida for the most commonly abused pain management drug between June 2011 and March 2012.”
Polzin said the center will remain open and distribute non- controlled medications.
The DEA alleges that the Jupiter center “failed to maintain effective controls against the diversion of controlled substances” and failed to conduct due diligence.
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