Congressional testimony by the DEA on Wednesday shed some light on their strategy behind license suspensions at seven (not four) wholesale distribution centers. Expect more, not less, enforcement action in the future.
As background, you may want to browse the DEA’s list of Drugs and Chemicals of Concern.
There has been growing political pressure to stop the abuse of prescription drugs.
- President Bush recently used his weekly radio address to highlight the “growing availability of highly addictive prescription drugs online.”
- Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced S.980 Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007 in March 2007. The HDMA recently affirmed its support of this bill.
- Similar legislation aimed at rogue pharmacies is also part of S 2237 Crime Control and Prevention Act of 2007. (Look for the section called “Subtitle E--Online Pharmacy Bill” a.k.a. The Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2007).
The President’s National Drug Control Strategy: 2008 Annual Report cites some startling data, such as the fact that abuse of prescription drugs among 12 and 13 year-olds now exceeds marijuana use. (Yikes!)
The DEA also has much-improved abilities to identify diversion of controlled substances. So far, 35 states have enacted legislation requiring Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) to track prescriptions for controlled substances. 26 programs are operating and 9 are in the start-up phase.
THE DEA'S STRATEGY
As I’ve noted on the blog, wholesalers are being “asked” to be “responsible” for stopping diversion by their pharmacy customers.
Michele Leonhart, Acting Administrator of the DEA, testified before Congress on Wednesday. (Read her testimony.) She described the DEA’s strategy for controlling diversion by pursuing actions against wholesalers in the following way:
“As part of our effort to attack rogue Internet pharmacies that are supplying millions of doses of licit drugs, DEA has sought to disrupt the supply chain that makes diversion by these rogue Internet pharmacies possible. To that end, DEA has undertaken an important initiative to educate wholesale distributors, and when necessary, pursue administrative, civil, or other criminal action against wholesalers that distribute excessive amounts of controlled pharmaceuticals. Since beginning the initiative, DEA has suspended the registrations of seven wholesale distributors, four of which were owned by two Fortune 500 companies.”
I presume that four suspensions at Fortune 500 companies include Cardinal Health (CAH) and AmerisourceBergen (ABC). I was not aware of the other three suspensions. Does anyone know which other wholesalers had their licenses suspended? (UPDATED: See comments below.)
Wholesalers are now struggling to balance their enforcement responsibilities with the legitimate needs of pharmacies and patients, as evidenced by Cardinal's customer problems. Perhaps that’s one reason why drug distribution executives there seem to have as much job security as a Spinal Tap drummer. As the DEA has learned, you can't really dust for vomit...