DEA Orders Drug Wholesaler To Halt Opioid Sales

By Keri Blakinger 05/07/18

Drug distributer Morris & Dickson blasted the agency’s decision, emphasizing its track record and positive actions. 

pharmacist holding a bottle of pills

Last week the DEA ordered a Louisiana drug distributor to stop selling opioids, marking the first time in six years the agency has slapped a suspension on a pharmaceutical wholesaler.

The move came on the heels of a federal investigation that allegedly found evidence that Morris & Dickson neglected to tell the DEA about independent pharmacies that were buying up large quantities of addictive painkillers—even though they were required to do so, according to The Hill.

“Distributors have an obligation to ensure that all pharmaceutical controlled substances their customers order are for legitimate use, and it is their duty to identify, recognize and report suspicious orders to DEA,” DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson said in a statement. “This is another reminder that DEA will hold accountable those companies who choose to operate outside the law.”

But the drug company pushed back with a federal lawsuit and its own sharply-worded statement.

“Sadly, in this case, the DEA has gotten it wrong,” said company president Paul M. Dickson. “We would’ve proved that to them had they given us the chance.”

The investigation into the Shreveport company kicked off in October, when the feds reportedly discovered that Morris & Dickson had sold narcotics to five of the state’s top 10 drug-purchasing pharmacies—and never filed any suspicious activity reports on any of them.

For now, the company is banned from selling opioids. Moving ahead, they’ll be able to fight the suspension through an administrative hearing process where the DEA will decide whether to permanently revoke the company’s registration.

But they’re also seeking to fight the suspension in federal courts, where the company last Thursday asked a judge to overturn the DEA order, according to the Associated Press.

"Make no mistake—this is a life and death situation," Morris & Dickson wrote in its legal claim. "Morris & Dickson services 30-40% of the hospital drug market in Louisiana and Texas alone. If Morris & Dickson cannot ship needed medications to these hospitals, these hospitals may face immediate drug shortages."

The company blasted the agency’s decision and emphasized its track record and positive actions. 

“Everyone in the Morris & Dickson family has been touched by the opioid crisis,” Dickson said. “That’s why we’ve taken aggressive and effective voluntary measures against any potential opioid diversion from medical use. We have reduced our opioid distribution dramatically. And it’s why we’re so proud of our history of 177 years with no outside enforcement actions against us.” 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.