Follow-Up Review of the Drug Enforcement Administrationís Efforts
to Control the Diversion of Controlled Pharmaceuticals

Evaluations and Inspections Report I-2006-004
July 2006
Office of the Inspector General


Purpose, Scope, and Methodology


Purpose

The OIG conducted this review as a follow-up to our October 2002 review, which assessed the DEA’s actions to control pharmaceutical diversion. This current review examined the changes to the DEA’s efforts to manage the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals in response to the recommendations made in the previous report. Specifically, this review assessed:

  • the DEA’s actions in pharmaceutical diversion control since our 2002 review,
  • the amount of law enforcement and intelligence assistance the DEA provided for diversion investigations, and
  • the DEA’s response to the growing problem of Internet diversion.

Scope

Our review examined the DEA’s enforcement efforts to control pharmaceutical diversion since our October 2002 report through FY 2005. We limited our data analyses to the DEA’s domestic field divisions and offices, except in our analysis of diversion using the Internet where we considered all diversion work hours because Internet diversion crosses national boundaries. We did not assess the diversion control program’s regulatory function and did not examine its enforcement efforts against the diversion of regulated chemicals.41

Methodology

To examine the DEA’s pharmaceutical diversion control program, we reviewed federal laws, DEA policies and procedures, documentation related to the DEA’s pharmaceutical diversion control efforts. To obtain information on pharmaceutical abuse trends, we analyzed drug use studies from the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Heath, Monitoring the Future, the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a July 2005 report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse of Columbia University, and other sources.

Field work. We interviewed DEA headquarters staff, including the DEA Administrator and Deputy Administrator; the Chief of Operations; the Chief of Intelligence; the Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Diversion Control; the Special Agent in Charge of training; the Special Agent in Charge of the Special Operations Division; personnel within the Office of Diversion Control, the Special Operations Division, and the Pharmaceutical Investigations Section within the Operations Division; personnel within the Office of Special Intelligence and the El Paso Intelligence Center within the Intelligence Division; personnel within the Office of Resource Management within the Financial Management Division; and personnel within the Human Resources Division and on the Executive Policy and Strategic Planning Staff.

We also conducted site visits to eight DEA field offices: Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; New York City and Long Island, New York; Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; and Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado. We selected the Miami Field Division because it was recommended by the DEA during the entrance conference for this review and by numerous interviewees as being very active in Internet diversion investigations, the New York Field Division because it had recently split diversion regulatory and enforcement functions into two separate groups where the diversion enforcement group was composed of special agents and diversion investigators, and the Denver Field Division because it had a Tactical Diversion Squad and was recommended to us in an interview as actively working with the Special Operations Division.

During this review we interviewed special agents in charge, associate and assistant special agents in charge, special agents, diversion program managers, diversion group supervisors, diversion investigators, group assistants, intelligence group supervisors, intelligence analysts, Assistant United States Attorneys, and state and local law enforcement officers who collaborated with the DEA in diversion investigations.

We also attended presentations on the history of the structure and threat of diversion, DEA’s online pharmacy trafficking strategy, intelligence support for Internet investigations, intelligence technology supporting Internet pharmacy investigations, Internet public awareness, Internet training, Operation CybeRx, Operation Cyber Chase, Operation Baywatch, Operation Cookie Dough, and Operation Gear Grinder.

Survey. To obtain a broad perspective on the DEA diversion control program, we conducted an e-mail survey of the 63 diversion groups and 5 Tactical Diversion Squads within DEA field offices, as defined in the DEA’s table of organization.42 Out of these 68 surveys sent, we received 62 responses for a response rate of 91 percent. The survey topics included law enforcement and intelligence assistance for diversion investigations, the DEA’s efforts to address the emerging threat of Internet diversion, and diversion training for special agents and intelligence analysts. The questionnaire is included in Appendix I.

Data. To assess the DEA’s efforts and effectiveness at controlling pharmaceutical diversion, we obtained and analyzed data from seven sources: the Controlled Substances Act System, the Quarterly Report Database, the Case Status Subsystem database, personnel data, the 1‑877‑RxAbuse hotline, the Unlawful Medical Internet Reporting Effort, and the Work Hours Reporting System. In addition, we reviewed information about specific training the DEA offered to its employees as well as a variety of other documents.

Work Hour Data. In this report, we include two analyses of special agent and intelligence analyst work hour data to measure different aspects of the DEA’s diversion control efforts. To differentiate between the two types of work hour data included in this review, we refer to diversion investigations as those initiated by diversion investigators that can involve controlled pharmaceuticals or regulated chemicals and that can be criminal or regulatory in nature; and pharmaceutical investigations as those that can be initiated by diversion investigators or special agents, must involve controlled pharmaceuticals only, and are criminal in nature. Table 1 below describes the difference between diversion investigations and pharmaceutical investigations.

Table 1: Types of Work Hour Analysis Included in Review

Type of Investigation

Initiator of investigation

Substances involved in investigation

Nature of investigation

Source of data

Diversion

Diversion investigators

Diverted controlled pharmaceuticals or regulated chemicals

Criminal or non-criminal

“2000 series” data*

Pharmaceutical

Diversion investigators or special agents

Diverted controlled pharmaceuticals

Criminal

G-DEP data**

* Every DEA investigation has a unique case number consisting of eight digits that specify the (1) field division where it was initiated, (2) the fiscal year when it was initiated, and (3) who initiated it. Cases initiated by diversion investigators are denoted as “2000 series” cases.

** The G-DEP code is a five-character code the DEA assigns to all criminal investigations indicating (1) the type of investigative target, (2) whether other agencies are involved in the investigation, (3) the principal controlled substance or commodity involved in the investigation, and (4) the geographic scope of the criminal activity under investigation.

Source: OIG Analysis

While most investigations into the diversion of controlled pharmaceuticals are initiated by diversion investigators, special agents may initiate pharmaceutical investigations if they work in field offices where there are no diversion investigators, if they obtain pharmaceutical diversion information from a confidential informant, or if they discover a pharmaceutical diversion link to an existing illicit drug investigation. (See Appendix II for the complete explanation of the methodology we used for our work hour analyses, and for a comparison of “2000 series” and G-DEP data.)



Footnotes
  1. The DEA’s regulated chemical control responsibilities originated with passage of the Chemical Diversion and Trafficking Act (CDTA) in 1988. The CDTA and subsequent amendments in 1993 have placed 34 chemicals “under control,” including ephedrine, pseudo ephedrine, and red phosphorous. The CDTA also [“regulates”] equipment used in the production of controlled substances, such as machines that form tablets.

  2. We did not send surveys to DEA offices defined on the DEA’s table of organization as having “diversion staff” rather than a “diversion group” or “Tactical Diversion Squad.”



« Previous Table of Contents Next »