After a brief hiatus, DEA Chronicles is back. As always, I will be keeping you informed on changes in the relevant laws and regulations and how these may impact your business. But, as regular readers know, we go beyond simple reporting. DEA Chronicles identifies DEA enforcement trends. We engage in policy analysis across the spectrum of issues involving controlled substances. What regulatory approaches best combine an effective strategy for combating diversion with a workable framework for the various actors in the pharmaceutical industry? What are the best practices designed to ensure compliance? What are the red flags that should alert companies to potential problems within their organizations? We explore these and all other questions regarding the enforcement of controlled substance laws and regulations.

Cote Law PLLC

So why the hiatus? The answer is simple and, for me at least, kind of exciting. After six and a half years with Quarles & Brady, I am pleased to announce that I have moved the DEA Litigation and Compliance practice to my new firm, Cote Law PLLC. I bring to my DEA practice a unique set of experience and skills. For one, I worked at DEA at a management level in the enforcement area. I know my way around the agency. I know how it operates and how it thinks. It is one thing to read a statute or a regulation. It is another to understand how the people at the agency approach the enforcement of these laws. 


Continue Reading Did You Miss Me?

The Department of Justice recently published its list of proposed regulatory actions for the near and long term.  It appears that the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA’s) Regulatory Drafting and Support Section is going to have a busy year.  The Unified Agenda indicates several potential regulatory changes are in store for the coming year, some of which may have significant impact on the regulated community.

A few highlights:

  • Updates to the suspicious order regulation have been delayed to at least February 2019.
  • DEA will provide guidance for Emergency Medical Services wishing to handle controlled substances.
  • After more than nine years, DEA is finally implementing regulations regarding the practice of telemedicine, as required by Congress in the Ryan Haight Act.
  • Guidance is forthcoming regarding the partial filling of prescriptions for Schedule II controlled substances as a result of related provisions in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016.
  • It appears that additional (and significant changes) will be coming to DEA’s quota process.
  • DEA is getting rid of the carbon copy 222 form! (for those too young to understand the concept of carbon copies, click here)

Below are links to each notification and a summary taken directly from the related Abstract.

Stay tuned. We will provide updates as they become available.


Continue Reading DEA to Propose Significant Regulatory Changes in the Coming Year

On May 2, 2018, the DEA issued an Order to Show Cause and Immediate Suspension of Registration (the “Order”) against Morris & Dickson Co., LLC (“M&D”), a drug distributor based in Louisiana with pharmacy customers in 7 states. The DEA has two main allegations against M&D:

  1. M&D failed to maintain effective controls against division of controlled substances into other than legitimate channels, in violation of 21 USC 823(b)(1) and 21 CFR 1301.71.
  2. M&D failed to identify and report suspicious orders to DEA, in violation of 21 CFR 1301.74(b).


Continue Reading Alleged Failure to Report Suspicious Orders Leads to Suspension

The DEA issued a short press release yesterday that, at first glance, appeared to deliver on something that wholesale drug distributors have been seeking for years—access to ARCOS data so that wholesalers can see the total number of controlled substances a customer is ordering.* Despite the sensational headline, the new DEA tool is underwhelming and misses the mark because it will only tell a wholesaler how many other wholesalers a prospective customer has purchased a controlled substance from in the past six months. Unfortunately, this tool will provide little to no usefulness to distributors in identifying suspicious orders.
Continue Reading DEA Gives Wholesalers Access to Some ARCOS Data, but Not Quantities Purchased

In a recently issued Request for Proposal (RFP) for Information Technology (IT) and other services in support of the Diversion Control Division, DEA indicated that it will be creating a new section in the Code of Federal Regulations. 21 C.F.R. 1301.78, will contain the suspicious order reporting requirement that is currently found in 21 C.F.R. 1301.74(b). DEA intends to define the term “suspicious order” with a list of specific factors to consider when scrutinizing an order. DEA is expected to require that the “presence of any one or more of these factors renders the order a suspicious order,” which must be reported to DEA via a secure network application for Suspicious Order Reporting System (SORS).
Continue Reading Be Careful What You Wish For:  DEA to Update Suspicious Order Reporting Regulations

Nobody would argue with the fact that there is an opioid crisis in our country – it is a demonstrable fact. However, there has recently been a significant focus on whether drug wholesalers and their business partners including lobbyists have caused people to die from overdoses, including a recent segment by 60 Minutes. While the segment sought to educate viewers on the causes of prescription drug abuse and the alleged slowdown in enforcement efforts by the government, it is of course journalism and takes a strong position against drug companies. Aided by reporters from the Washington Post and former employees from the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”), the 60 Minutes segment, while dramatic in its presentation, only told the facts relevant to the position it was taking – which is what makes good headlines.
Continue Reading The Other Side of the Story: DEA Enforcement in the Opioid Crisis

The West Virginia Board of Pharmacy (“Board”) rolled out a new mandatory suspicious order reporting form for wholesalers at its board meeting last month.  The one-page form is designed to be filled out for each individual suspicious order being reported. This will require wholesalers that currently create and submit automated suspicious order reports to adapt their reporting for West Virginia.
Continue Reading West Virginia Imposes New Suspicious Order Reporting Requirements

On June 30, 2017, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued an order in Masters Pharmaceutical, Inc. v. Drug Enforcement Administration (No. 15-1335). In sum, the Court denied Masters Pharmaceutical, Inc.’s (“Masters”) Petition for Review seeking to overturn the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (“DEA”) revocation of Masters’ DEA registration. This decision has wide-ranging implications for DEA-registered wholesalers, who are required to detect and report suspicious orders of controlled substances.
Continue Reading DEA Prevails Over Masters Pharmaceutical, Inc.

Recently, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy adopted a new rule for wholesale distributors, requiring that they report suspicious orders to the Board for review. The rule goes into effect on July 1, 2017.

The adoption of the new rule followed several recent settlements by wholesale distributors around the country, who are facing severe penalties for failing to report suspicious orders of controlled substances to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Continue Reading Oregon Adds Suspicious Order Reporting to Wholesale Distributor Requirements

An Oklahoma doctor wrote 19 Schedule II controlled substance prescriptions for a patient with low back pain over eight months without thoroughly documenting the patient’s history, confronting the patient over aberrant drug tests, or talking to other doctors who were prescribing the patient controlled substances. The Chief Administrative Law Judge felt the doctor should be granted a new registration, but placed on probation for one year. Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg disagreed. He reviewed the case and concluded that DEA proved that the doctor knew the patient was abusing or diverting the drugs and prescribed anyway.  Dr. Wesley Pope’s application for a new DEA registration was denied as inconsistent with the public interest.
Continue Reading DEA Decisions: In the Matter of Wesley Pope, M.D.