These examples from 2012 explain why the DEA is cracking down on pharmacies. There’s no question the hunt for abusive opiate prescribing has gone too far, but pharmacies were apparently happy to pocket the profits from the huge sales generated by pill mill prescribers:
Recently the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) accused the pharmacy chain, Walgreens with “endangering public safety” and prevented Walgreens from shipping OxyContin and other dangerous painkillers from their Jupiter, Florida distribution center.
This certainly explains the shortages, which Walgreens has brought upon itself with its reckless drive to increase profits.
Mark Trouville, DEA special agent in charge of the Miami Field Division was quoted as saying “All DEA licensees have an obligation to ensure that medications are getting into the hands of legitimate patients. When they choose to look the other way, patients suffer and drug dealers prosper.”
On September 13, 2012 the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration sent a letter to Walgreens. Here are some highlights of the 13-page letter. (The letter in its entirety is here,)
NOTICE is hereby given to inform Walgreen Corporation (“Walgreens” or “Respondent”) of the immediate suspension of Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) Certificate of Registration RW0277752, pursuant to 21 U.S.C 824(d), because such registration constitutes an imminent danger to the public health and safety.
DEA’s investigation of Respondent also revealed that Walgreens failed to detect and report suspicious orders by its pharmacy customers, in violation of 21 C.F.R. 1301.74(b), 21 C.F.R. 1301.74(b) distributors are required to “design and operate a system to disclose to the registrant suspicious orders of controlled substances… suspicious orders include orders of unusual size, orders deviating substantially from a normal pattern, and orders of unusual frequency.”
Notwithstanding the simple guidance available, Walgreens has failed to maintain an adequate suspicious order reporting system and as a result, has ignored readily identifiable orders and ordering patterns that, based on the information available throughout the Walgreens Corporation, should have been obvious signs of diversion occurring at Respondent’s customer pharmacies.
On September 27, 2010, a pharmacist working at Walgreens in Ft. Pierce, Florida reported to law enforcement that he mistakenly provided an extra 120 dosage units of 15 milligrams OxyContin to a customer. When the pharmacist tried to call the customer to request he return the mistakenly dispensed OxyContin, he was told by the customer’s girlfriend that the customer was an addict who sells his pills and views the extra OxyComtin as a “pot of gold” which he would not return. Despite this incident, Walgreens filled several additional OxyContin prescriptions issued to this customer in December 2010 and January 2011.
On December 21, 2010, a pharmacist employed by Walgreens Pharmacy in Hudson, Florida reported to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office that an individual had attempted to fill a prescription for 270 dosage units of 30 milligram OxyContin, but ran from the pharmacy after learning the pharmacy had contacted law enforcement, suspecting the prescription was a forgery. Despite this incident, the same pharmacy that reported this customer to the Sheriff’s Office in December continued to fill the same customer’s OxyContin prescriptions in February, March, April, May and October of 2011.
Respondent remains the top distributor of the most dangerous prescription drugs in Florida, and still has not made a single suspicious order report in calendar year 2012.