Walgreen Sues U.S. to Lift Oxycodone Distribution Ban

Walgreen Co. (WAG) sued the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, seeking to lift a ban on the company’s distribution of controlled substances from a Florida facility that was ruled to be a threat to public safety.

Walgreen, in a filing today in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, said the DEA relied on “outdated data” involving oxycodone to justify suspending distribution of the drugs from its Jupiter, Florida, facility. The company asked the court to lift the suspension order.

“DEA has not made a single specific allegation regarding an improper shipment from the Jupiter facility or improper dispensing of a controlled substance by a Walgreens pharmacy serviced by the Jupiter facility this year, much less in recent months,” Walgreen said in the filing.

The DEA’s action against Walgreen 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.

The Walgreen center was served Sept. 14 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 Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreen, has been the single largest distributor of oxycodone products in Florida since 2009, the DEA said.

The Justice Department, Attorney General Eric Holder and DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart were also named as defendants.

Dawn Dearden, a DEA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Walgreen Co. v. Holder, 12-1397, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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