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DEA moves against two Florida pharmacies, distributor over pill sales

From John Couwels, CNN
February 7, 2012 -- Updated 1446 GMT (2246 HKT)
The DEA has suspended the controlled-substance license of two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida.
The DEA has suspended the controlled-substance license of two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The DEA says two pharmacies ordered more than 3 million oxycodone units in a year
  • A typical pharmacy orders 69,000 such units a year, the DEA says
  • The pharmaceutical distributor involved says it will fight the license suspension
  • "We believe the DEA is wrong," says the CEO of the company

(CNN) -- Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration raided two CVS pharmacies in central Florida over the weekend, removing controlled substances and suspending the stores' ability to handle or distribute drugs such as painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone.

The DEA said that during one year, the two pharmacies -- both in Sanford, Florida -- ordered more than 3 million oxycodone units from a pharmaceutical wholesaler, while a typical pharmacy orders 69,000.

"Each registrant (pharmacy) was filling prescriptions far in excess of legitimate needs of its customers," said DEA Special Agent in Charge Mark Trouville during a press conference Monday in central Florida.

The DEA also has suspended the controlled-substance license of the wholesale distributor, Cardinal Health of Lakeland, Florida, according to Trouville.

"Cardinal Health did not fulfill its due diligence to insure controlled substances were not diverted into other than legitimate channels," Trouville said.

On Friday, Cardinal Health filed and received an emergency injunction from a federal judge in Washington allowing the drug supplier to continue filling orders for other pharmacies.

"We believe the DEA is wrong," said Cardinal Health Chairman and CEO George Barrett in a written statement.

Despite the DEA raid last weekend, the two Sanford, Florida, CVS pharmacies remain open.
Despite the DEA raid last weekend, the two Sanford, Florida, CVS pharmacies remain open.

"We strongly disagree with the allegations the DEA has made against our facility and intend to vigorously challenge this action," said Barrett.

The two Sanford pharmacies remain open filling regular prescriptions but they cannot fill prescriptions for controlled substances such as oxycodone, one form of which is the well-known narcotic OxyContin.

CVS said in a written statement that the company is disappointed by the DEA actions but is fully cooperating with the DEA suspension.

"CVS/pharmacy is unwavering in its compliance with and support of the measures taken by federal and state law enforcement officials to prevent drug abuse and keep controlled substances out of the wrong hands," said CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis.

Hearings on the suspensions will be held but no date has been set.

Trouville said that since the state of Florida moved to crack down on "pill mills" by banning doctors from directly distributing controlled narcotics, pharmacy sales of controlled substances have skyrocketed.

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