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A federal judge has ruled that drug distribution companies must “self-police” to track unusually big drug shipments that might be used improperly. The ruling allows the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to halt shipments of oxycodone and other controlled medications from a Cardinal Health distribution facility in Florida.

Judge Reggie Walton said last week that Cardinal must be proactive in looking for potential diversion of its supplies, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Earlier this year, the DEA charged Cardinal and four pharmacies with violating their licenses to sell controlled drugs. The DEA said Cardinal had an unusually high number of shipments of controlled painkillers to four pharmacies. The agency suspended Cardinal’s controlled substance license at its distribution center in Lakeland, Florida. The center serves 2,500 pharmacies in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. After the DEA suspended the company’s license, a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against the DEA’s suspension order.

Cardinal said it will appeal the decision. The company argued it already has systems in place to prevent diversion of painkillers to the black market. In a statement, the company said, “We have demonstrated a deep commitment in helping fight prescription drug abuse. We work hard to actively prevent drug diversion and have spent millions of dollars to build a system of advanced analytics and on anti-diversion specialists. We have stopped distributing to hundreds of pharmacies determined to pose an unreasonable risk of diversion. The majority of those pharmacies still maintain their DEA registrations to dispense controlled medicines.”


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