APR 05 – (Weston, Fla.) – In 2010, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) reported that 90 of the top 100 oxycodone purchasing physicians in the nation were located in Florida. The number of Florida doctors appearing in that nationwide list dropped from 90 to only 13 in 2011. Today the DEA is happy to announce that there are no Florida doctors on this list.
While Florida has been viewed as the epicenter of the nation’s ‘pill mill’ epidemic, new statistics reflect that the efforts of the DEA and its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners have made a significant difference in Florida. In 2009, the DEA Miami Field Division (MFD) introduced the Tactical Diversion Squad (TDS) in Weston, Florida. A DEA TDS brings together DEA’s criminal, regulatory, and analytical experts with its state and local task force partners to investigate violations of the Controlled Substance Act and other Federal or State Statutes pertaining to the diversion of licit pharmaceuticals. TDS investigations include rogue pharmacies, doctors, and pain clinics. Since then, TDS has expanded to Tampa, Orlando and now West Palm Beach.
Since 2011, TDS initiated investigations such as Operation Pill Nation I and II. Collectively these investigations have resulted in the arrest of more than 140 individuals, to include 39 doctors and 21 clinic/pharmacy owners; the seizure of approximately 2.2 million dosage units of controlled substances, the seizure of approximately $9 million in U.S. currency, real estate, and exotic vehicles; through the execution of more than 45 search warrants. Approximately 42 physicians lost their DEA registrations through the issuance of Immediate Suspension Orders (ISO). The ISO suspended the DEA registrant’s ability to handle controlled substances in Schedules II – V untill a final decision was made by the DEA. Also approximately 61 more DEA registrations were voluntarily surrendered by physicians following an official visit from the DEA. DEA has taken action on 4 distributors, and 38 pain clinics were closed due to the investigative efforts of the TDS.
DEA, MFD, Special Agent in Charge Mark R. Trouville stated, “These new statistics shed light on our efforts; however, our work is far from over. The DEA along with our state and local partners will persevere to ensure that powerful medicines are getting into the hands of legitimate patients and that the diversion of licit pharmaceutical drugs will not be tolerated.”
The combination of law enforcement activity, regulatory actions against DEA registrants, and new Florida laws that have stripped doctor’s ability to dispense highly addictive pain medicines at rogue pain clinics, have forced addicts and drug dealers who previously traveled from other states to Florida seeking oxycodone to turn elsewhere have made a positive difference in the fight against Florida’s prescription drug abuse epidemic.
In 2012, the DEA MFD initiated administrative actions against nationwide pharmaceutical wholesalers and retail chains that operate throughout Florida. In February 2012, the DEA served an ISO on Cardinal Health distribution center located in Lakeland, Florida. In May 2012, the DEA settled with Cardinal Health, which is a pharmaceutical wholesale distributor headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, that suspends for two years its ability to sell controlled-substance medications from its distribution facility in Lakeland, Florida. The settlement also includes a signed Administrative Memorandum of Agreement, the terms of which will apply to all of Cardinal’s 28 registered distribution facilities. In September 2012, the DEA revoked the DEA registrations at two CVS pharmacies located in Sanford, Florida. This action marked the first time the DEA has revoked the registration of a registrant that is part of a large national chain.
In September 2012, the DEA served Walgreens Distribution Center located in Jupiter, Florida with an ISO, and from November 2012 to February 2013, DEA MFD served Order to Show Cause (OSC) on six Florida Walgreen’s pharmacies located in Fort Piece, Hudson, Oviedo, Port Richey, and Fort Myers. An OSC is served as a notice to a DEA registrant to provide them an opportunity to show cause as to why the DEA should not revoke their DEA registration because its registration is inconsistent with the public interest. This administrative action does not affect a registrant’s ability to handle or distribute a controlled substance such as oxycodone, hydrocodone or other controlled substances in Schedules II – V. An administrative hearing has been scheduled for April 23, 2013, for the Walgreens Distribution Center and the six Walgreens pharmacies.
The DEA will continue to educate and work with its registrants and the public to battle Florida’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. On April 27, 2013, the DEA will host its sixth Nation Prescription Drug Take Back. The public can find a nearby collection site by visiting www.dea.gov, clicking on the “Got Drugs?” icon, and following the links to a database where they enter their zip code.