Opioid Distributor Gets Ban Reversed, Still Facing DEA Hearing

By Paul Gaita 05/23/18

Now the DEA wants the pharmaceutical company to prove why their license shouldn't be revoked. 

Opioid Distributor Gets Ban Reversed, Still Facing DEA Hearing

A Louisiana-based pharmaceutical wholesale company enjoyed brief vindication in mid-May when a U.S. District Court judge lifted a restraining order which suspended sales of opioid medication over alleged failure to properly report orders for controlled substances to independent pharmacies.

However, their victory may prove short-lived, as the Justice Department has stated that the Morris & Dickson Co. of Shreveport may still have to answer for the alleged misreporting, and could revoke the company's license after the hearing.

Company president Paul Dickson noted that they have adopted policy to address the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) original concerns, and feels "optimistic" that his organization can come to an agreement with the agency.

As the Shreveport Times noted, the original order from the DEA alleged that the 177-year-old Morris & Dickson company—the largest private, family-owned pharmaceutical distributor in the country—had failed to inform the agency that they had made substantial sales of the opioid pain medications oxycodone and hydrocodone to five independent pharmacies, all of which were among the top drug-purchasing pharmacies in the state, or filed any suspicious activity reports on those establishments.

According to the DEA, some of the pharmacies had placed monthly orders that were 10 times the average for Louisiana-based pharmacies. Morris & Dickson was subsequently banned from selling opioids—a first during the Trump administration—and responded with a suit in federal court to have the DEA's order reversed.

A U.S. District Court judge entered a temporary restraining order against the DEA's ban on May 18, with a hearing set for May 22 to determine whether the restraining order could become a preliminary injunction. The DEA rescinded the order, but on May 21, stated that a "show cause" hearing had been set for May 21.

The order will require Morris & Dickson to appear before an administrative judge on July 9 and explain to the DEA why its license to sell controlled substances should not be revoked. The agency is currently reviewing documents submitted in the lawsuit by the company.

Though one of the outcomes of such a hearing could be a revocation of the company's license, Morris & Dickson president Paul Dickson said that he believed his company had met all of the DEA's requirements to address the problem, including the use of former DEA officials to oversee drug diversion controls. "We're very optimistic that this will be a cooperative agreement," said Dickson.

Dickson also noted that no formal judgment will be made at the July 9 hearing, and it was entirely possibly that they could reach an agreement with the DEA prior to that date. "If we are able to come to some agreement with the DEA before then, it might be postponed or might be eliminated altogether, just depending on how things go," he said.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.