Cardinal Health, one of the big three pharmaceutical wholesalers, reached an agreement with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, under which Cardinal Health will not ship controlled substances from its Lakeland, Fla., distribution center for two years.
Misuse of prescription painkillers have passed cocaine and heroin as drugs that kill people in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So-called pill mills in Florida have been one hotspot in that national problem.
Oxycodone is generic name of one of the painkillers and is used to relieve moderate to severe pain. The National Institutes for Health says oxycodone is in a class of medications called opiate (narcotic) analgesics. Oxycodone is also combined with acetaminophen (the brand names being Endocet, Percocet, Roxicet, Tylox, among others), aspirin (brands Endodan, Percodan, Roxiprin among others), and ibuprofen (Combunox). The drug comes in liquid, tablets and capsules.
The government wants big distributors such as Cardinal, Valley Forge-based AmerisourceBergen and McKesson to keep close track of which facilities are dispensing unusually large amounts of controlled substances, with painkillers being the most prominent, and act on that information by alerting authorities.
Tuesday's agreement includes a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on how Cardinal will operate going forward from its 28 distribution facilities.
A DEA statement says in the agreement, "Cardinal admits that it's due diligence efforts for some pharmacy customers and its compliance with an earlier MOA signed in 2008 for similar violations at the same facility were, in certain respects, inadequate."
Joseph Rannazzisi, deputy assistant administrator in the office of diversion control, said in a statement, "The Drug Enforcement Administration is committed to battling the prescription drug abuse epidemic in this country at all levels, from corporate America to pill mills. Regardless of the size of a company or its profitability, organizations that fail to prevent the diversion of powerful controlled substances will be held accountable. Cardinal Health is not above the law, and with this agreement it admits that it neglected its vital responsibility to prevent the diversion of controlled substance medications."
Cardinal Health said in a statement it will continue its efforts to help stop prescription drug abuse.
"This agreement allows us to put this matter behind us, and just as important, will clear the way for a more productive dialog about how we and others in the health care and regulatory community can work together to prevent the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs," CEO George Barrett said in a statement.