April 10, 2012
Florida In The Middle Of Pain-Killer Boom Once More
The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is inspecting 6 Walgreens pharmacies and its Florida distribution center in response to a jump in purchases of oxycodone, a highly addictive pain killer. According to Reuters, the DEA has issued inspection warrants to Walgreen´s distribution center as well as stores in Hudson, Port Richey, Oviedo, Fort Meyers, and two stores in Fort Pierce, Florida.
In accordance with the US Controlled Substance Act, warrants may be issued for “valid public interest” without the type of probable cause needed under criminal law. The warrant was filed in the US District Court, Middle District of Florida.
According to the warrant, the “DEA is investigating Walgreens Jupiter and its top six retail pharmacies in Florida for 2011 to determine if the pharmacies are dispensing controlled substances outside the scope of their registration in violation of federal laws and regulation.”
Reuters says the warrant reports 38 Walgreens walk-in pharmacies listed in the DEA´s top 100 purchasers of oxycodone in 2011. This number jumped to 53 walk-in pharmacies in the first 2 months of 2012 alone. By contrast, there were no Florida Walgreens locations on this list in 2009.
Furthermore, one store in Ft. Meyers, which purchased the drug from the distribution center in Jupiter, accounted for 67% of all the oxycodone sold in the same zip code.
Such a sharp increase causes the DEA to take notice, as these kind of numbers usually mean pharmacies could be involved in illegal sales of the drug.
“The purchase of large amounts of oxycodone by a retail pharmacy is indicative of a pharmacy that fills prescription issued by physicians at pain clinics and/or a pharmacy which services primarily drug seeking individuals that abuse the medication,” the warrant said.
Walgreens isn´t alone in being investigated by the DEA. Recently, the DEA moved to suspend Cardinal Health Inc´s license to distribute controlled substances, or drugs that are likely to be abused. The DEA also intervened to stop 2 Florida CVS Caremark Corp pharmacies from selling controlled substances. Both of these companies are fighting the orders in court.
According to Reuters, Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger has said they will be ““¦working with, and cooperating with, the DEA on this matter.” Several factors led to this most recent DEA intervention. Primarily, the volume of drugs being shipped to these stores sparked the attention of the DEA.
With the inspection warrants, the DEA will be able to study the pharmacies records and receipts as they look for indications of oxycodone being directed to illegal third parties.
This action comes as the DEA ramps up their efforts to battle what the CDC refers to as a prescription drug abuse “epidemic.” According to the CDC, deaths from painkiller overdose now exceeds deaths from cocaine and heroin combined,
Florida isn´t a stranger to these kinds of interventions. According to Reuters, the DEA has dismantled dozens of “pill mills”-clinics whose doctors supply drugs to dealers and addicts-over the past year.
In an article from last year, the Sun-Sentinel reported Florida distributed more than a half-billion doses of oxycodone in 2009, a number which is twice as high as the next nearest state and had risen sharply from the previous year. Political action had tried to implement a computer system to monitor and track all pain killer prescriptions, but Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican legislators opposed the system.