NEW ORLEANS — The Drug Enforcement Administration has suspended a Louisiana wholesaler's licenses to sell controlled drugs, saying the company failed to report excessive opioid orders from independent pharmacies.
Morris & Dickson Co. of Shreveport says it will prove that "the DEA has gotten it wrong."
It asked a federal judge Thursday to overturn the DEA's order, saying it was based on incomplete and outdated information, and will halt the flow of needed drugs "for surgeries, pain treatment, nursing homes, hospice and all other legitimate, medical uses" to its customers in 17 states.
The bulk of the customers are in Louisiana and Texas, with the rest in adjacent southeastern and south-central states, company President Paul Dixon wrote in an email.
"Make no mistake — this is a life and death situation," the company wrote in its lawsuit against the DEA. "Morris & Dickson services 30-40 percent 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."
A DEA news release Friday said agents learned in October that Morris & Dickson was selling large amounts of oxycodone and hydrocodone. Some independent pharmacies were buying more of those drugs than were being bought by nearby pharmacy chain stores, it said. It said some monthly orders were 10 times the Louisiana average.
The DEA says its action affects only drugs legally classified as likely targets of abuse and won't affect other sales.
It said the "high-volume sales" involved five of the top 10 purchasing pharmacies in Louisiana. "DEA records indicated that Morris & Dickson Company had not filed any suspicious order reports on any of the pharmacies in question in Louisiana," the agency wrote.
The company's lawsuit said DEA officials questioned sales at seven pharmacies. Three are no longer customers, Morris & Dickson has cut shipments to three others by 6 to 33 percent, and the seventh involved a pharmacist who was trying to stock up because he'd heard other pharmacies were having trouble getting shipments, according to the lawsuit.
It said their compliance officer called to check on high orders, told the salesman to let the pharmacist "know we had stock & that we did not allow customers to 'Stock Up,'" and the pharmacist quickly arranged to return the excess.
That "is a clear example of practical due diligence to address a potentially suspicious order and combat diversion. Morris & Dickson obtained a return of all excessive drugs ordered," the lawsuit said.