DEA is investigating two pharmacies in Colorado. It doesn’t want those pharmacies to know it is investigating them. But it needs information relating to these pharmacies and the prescriptions they are dispensing to assist with its investigation. So DEA is doing what it does on a regular basis in many states. It is issuing subpoenas for the Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (“PDMP”) data relevant to these registrants. And Colorado is objecting.

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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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On October 23, 2019, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced the launch of its Suspicious Orders Report System (SORS) Online, a portal allowing for the centralized reporting of suspicious orders, as required by the SUPPORT ACT.

According to DEA’s announcement, 12 registrant business activity classes will utilize this reporting system:

  • Distributors
  • Manufacturers
  • Importers
  • Pharmacies
  • Hospitals/Clinics
  • Teaching Institutions
  • Practitioners
  • Mid-Level Practitioners
  • Mid-Level Practitioners – Ambulance Services
  • Researchers
  • Analytical Labs
  • Narcotic Treatment Programs (NTPs)

Reverse distributors and exporters are excluded from the requirement.
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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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Just as there are several factors that contributed to the opioid epidemic, there are a myriad of solutions that, in tandem, will make a difference in the lives of those impacted by opioid abuse and may prevent others from misusing and abusing these drugs. Roger Krone and his team at Leidos are executing a program that should be emulated by companies across the United States.

After receiving an email from an employee whose son recently lost his life to a drug overdose, Leidos CEO Roger Krone directed the creation of a corporate responsibility program focusing on drug abuse awareness, prevention, and treatment. The CEO Pledge was born from this initiative.


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As I have previously written, there is a long list of regulatory changes coming from DEA in the next few years.  Rather than publish one or more of the long overdue regulations listed on DEA’s Regulatory Agenda, on April 30, 2019, the agency will publish a Final Rule creating a “discretionary review” process allowing the Administrator to review an Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ’s”) denial of a request for an interlocutory appeal.  Note that this is a Final Rule, not a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.  The agency was able to bypass the traditional notice and comment rulemaking process by categorizing this rule as a Rule of Agency, pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act.  As such, the rule is effective immediately.

Requests for interlocutory appeals can take many forms in a DEA administrative proceeding.  Often, they are a result of a procedural or evidentiary ruling by an ALJ during the prehearing process.  DEA regulations currently give ALJs broad authority to rule on a request to seek an interlocutory appeal.  The ALJ’s decision to deny a request for an interlocutory appeal is not reviewable.  Until now.


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As you undoubtedly should know by now, on April 22, 2019, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (the “Agreement”) with the Rochester Drug Co-operative, Inc. (“RDC”).

Specifically, the government announced that

“RDC agreed to accept responsibility for its conduct by making admissions and stipulating to the accuracy of an extensive Statement of Facts, pay a $20 million penalty, reform and enhance its Controlled Substances Act compliance program, and submit to supervision by an independent monitor.”


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