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CVS Ordered to Stop Controlled Drug Sales at Two Pharmacies

CVS Caremark Corp. must stop filling prescriptions for controlled substances at two of its pharmacies in Sanford, Florida, while an appeals court weighs a U.S. order barring the sales.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington today rejected a request by CVS to put the order by the Drug Enforcement Administration on hold. A lower court judge on March 13 upheld the DEA suspension, which resulted from an investigation into oxycodone sales by the pharmacies.

“Appellant has not satisfied the stringent requirements for a stay pending appeal,” the three-judge panel ruled.

A different three-judge panel on March 16 turned down a similar bid by Cardinal Health Inc., the second-largest U.S. drug distributor by revenue, to forestall the suspension of its Lakeland, Florida, facility from distributing controlled substances.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said the DEA produced enough information to show that pharmacists at the CVS stores filled prescriptions for the painkiller oxycodone that they knew or should have known would lead to the drug being diverted for illegal uses.

Carolyn Castel, a CVS spokeswoman, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment on the ruling.

Suspension Unwarranted

CVS, based in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, said the suspension is unwarranted because it already stopped distributing oxycodone at the two pharmacies while the DEA’s administrative case moves forward. CVS also said it stopped filling prescriptions written by 22 doctors responsible for the highest volume of oxycodone dispensed by the stores.

On Feb. 29, Walton ruled that the government provided adequate evidence that Cardinal’s Lakeland facility posed a public safety threat by shipping heavy volumes of oxycodone to pharmacies, including the two owned by a unit of CVS.

The DEA suspended the licenses of the pharmacies and the Cardinal Health facility on Feb. 2.

The cases are Cardinal Health v. U.S. Department of Justice, 12-05061, and Holiday CVS LLC v. Holder, 12-05072, U.S. Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit (Washington).

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