DEA issues first sales suspension under Trump for opioid wholesaler

DEA issues first sales suspension under Trump for opioid wholesaler
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The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has ordered a Louisiana-based wholesale pharmaceutical distributor to cease sales of opioids, alleging that the company failed to report unusually large narcotics shipments to drugstores.

The Justice Department said Friday that a DEA investigation revealed that, in some cases, independent pharmacies were allowed to purchase six times the quantity of narcotics they would normally order from the distributor.

The investigation, which focused primarily on the distribution of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone, found that Shreveport-based Morris & Dickson failed to disclose such large orders to the DEA, the agency said. 

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The DEA began investigating Morris & Dickson's sales in October, after officials became aware that the wholesaler had distributed the drugs to five of the top 10 pharmacies purchasing narcotics in Louisiana. The investigation found that Morris & Dickson never filed a suspicious activity report on any of the drugstores in question. 

The company will have the opportunity to appeal the DEA's decision in an administrative hearing, after which the agency's acting administrator will determine whether to permanently revoke the wholesaler's registration.

Morris & Dickson's president denied on Friday that the company had done anything wrong, and vowed to appeal the suspension. He said that the DEA never gave the company a chance to respond to the accusations, and that it had already significantly reduced its distribution of opioids.

"Sadly in this case, the DEA has gotten it wrong. We would’ve proved that to them had they given us the chance," Paul Dickson said. "But we’ll do that now in this administrative action and will help them improve their enforcement."

Pharmaceutical distributors are required to report unusually large shipments of narcotics to the government as a safeguard against drugs being sold illegally on the black market. 

But it is rare for the DEA to issue an immediate suspension for drug wholesalers. The order on Morris & Dickson marks the first time the agency has used the tool in six years. 

The suspension on Morris & Dickson comes as the Trump administration seeks to crack down on the distribution and use of prescription opioids, which have created a health crisis in the U.S. 

Of the more than 63,600 deaths from drug overdoses in 2016, about 66 percent involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention