Controlled Substances Act

In a decision issued on October 30, Judge Joseph Goodwin of the Southern District of West Virginia dissolved an Order of Immediate Suspension of Registration (“ISO”) issued by DEA against Oak Hill Hometown Pharmacy, a West Virginia pharmacy. Without getting too far into the factual weeds of this case, I do think there are two or three critical takeaways related to both the adjudication of this matter and to DEA’s view of Subutex vs. Suboxone.
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Is “Suspicious Order” about to be defined?

The recently-released DOJ OIG Review of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Regulatory and Enforcement Efforts to Control the Diversion of Opioids has met with extensive media coverage focused on the sexier aspects of the story. What did DEA do or not do to stem the opioids crisis? What internal battles may have led DEA to drop the ball in some aspects of the response? These are important questions, but they have been well-covered.

Instead, we are going to focus on a handful of the nine recommendations (listed below) made by the IG and DEA’s and ODAG’s responses.
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Quota Reductions

DEA is out with its proposed 2020 aggregate production quotas for Schedule I and II controlled substances, and they have been reduced dramatically from 2019’s numbers. From the press release:

DEA proposes to reduce the amount of fentanyl produced by 31 percent, hydrocodone by 19 percent, hydromorphone by 25 percent, oxycodone by nine percent and oxymorphone by 55 percent. Combined with morphine, the proposed quota would be a 53 percent decrease in the amount of allowable production of these opioids since 2016.”

How’d They Get There?

Why the size of the decrease? Aside from the obvious political pressures attendant to legitimate concern over the proliferation of the opioid crisis and, perhaps, some less-legitimate political posturing, the DEA cites the usual factors and a significant new one. As always, DEA consults “many sources, including estimates of the legitimate medical need from the Food and Drug Administration; estimates of retail consumption based on prescriptions dispensed; manufacturer’s disposition history and forecasts; data from DEA’s internal system for tracking controlled substance transactions; and past quota histories.”


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Jeffrey Stein, M.D.; Decision and Order

Uttam Dhillon, DEA Acting Administrator, issued a final order today in the case of the revocation of a New York doctor’s DEA registration. But its implications go well beyond this doctor’s circumstances.

The Facts

Here are the basics. Dr. Jeffrey Stein was convicted of tax-related crimes in the Southern District of New York in 2015. Specifically, Dr. Stein had provided false receipts and other fabricated documents to his accountant to reduce the amount of taxes he would have to pay and, in turn, to mislead the IRS Auditor into believing that the claimed expenses were legitimate. Dr. Stein pled guilty to these charges. Of particular relevance to today’s order, Dr. Stein had used, among the fabricated materials, “the names of four disabled military veterans (including two former patients whose identities he obtained as a result of his work for the V.A, [and] . . . created bogus invoices in the names of those veterans.”


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Last week was an active week when it comes to marijuana policy. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that it will begin considering (and approving?) applications to allow for the manufacture (growing) of marijuana for research purposes. Shortly thereafter, United States Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Jerome M. Adams (Dr. Adams), issued an advisory regarding the significant adverse effects of marijuana use by adolescents and by women during pregnancy. Both developments could foreshadow the long road ahead for marijuana legalization advocates seeking DEA’s removal of marijuana from its listing as a schedule I controlled substance.

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As required by the “SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act” (Public Law 115-217), DEA just announced that it has implemented a new tool to provide drug manufacturers and distributors with access to anonymized ARCOS information.

This an enhancement to DEA’s existing tool that previously provided very limited ARCOS information.  The new functionality in the tool

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. 


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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.


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Over a period of two weeks in June, the House passed several bills aimed at combating the ongoing opioid epidemic. Our summary of the earlier measures can be found here. Key points of these additional legislative initiatives are summarized below. We will continue to monitor and report on their progress.

R. 3192, CHIP Mental Health Parity Act
This bill required state Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP programs) to cover mental health benefits including substance use disorder services for pregnant women and children. It also prohibits states from imposing financial or utilization limits on mental health treatment that are lower than the limits placed on physical health treatment.

R. 3331
Specifically, this bill encourages the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to test models to provide incentive payments to behavioral health providers for adopting electronic health records technology, and using that technology to improve the quality and coordination of care.


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