In mid-February, Supply Chain Matters provided commentary regarding a looming legal showdown as U.S. governmental regulators began a crackdown on major drug distributors and larger corporations to fight rampart prescription drug abuse in the U.S..  Specific incidents involving four pharmacies located in the Sanford Florida area suspected of selling “staggering” volumes of the controlled drug oxycodone lead to strong suspicions of a huge black market in this specific area.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) took the unusual step of targeting the supplier to these pharmacies, Cardinal Health Inc., the second largest U.S. wholesale pharmaceutical distributor, by seeking to block distribution of controlled substances from Cardinal’s distribution facility located in Lakeland Florida. The DEA alleges that Cardinal has failed to follow agreed-to procedures to monitor misuse of controlled substances such as oxycodone. The DEA also targeted retail chains CVS Caremark Corp. and later Walgreens in this effort.

This morning, the Wall Street Journal is reporting (paid subscription or free metered view) that Cardinal has agreed to a settlement with the DEA that involves a two-year suspension of its DEA license to ship controlled substances from its Lakeland Florida distribution center, along with efforts to improve this distributor’s anti-drug-diversion procedures. The WSJ also reports that this new settlement could also affect DEA’s ongoing litigation with CVS , which alleges that the drug retailer’s  two retail facilities in Florida sold suspiciously large volumes of pain pills received from the Cardinal Lakeland distribution facility.

While further details will follow, this report would indicate that the DEA and U.S. regulatory agencies are placing serious teeth to the ongoing efforts of flagging and enforcing obvious illicit drug distribution through available U.S. retail channels.  It is an obvious sign that distributors and retailers had better invest in analytical tools that can flag unusual or excessive patterns of controlled substance retail sales, coupled with actionable regulatory reporting and mitigation control.

Bob Ferrari