DEA Announces Investigation of Florida Walgreens Suspected of Connections to ‘Pill Mills’

April 9, 2012 by David S. Seltzer

Here in Florida, abuse of powerful prescription drugs is an ongoing issue. Our state loses seven people per day to Oxycontin abuse alone, prompting a lot of attention from state and federal law enforcement. Prescription drug abuse even became a political issue when Gov. Rick Scott proposed repealing a law designed to track prescriptions for painkillers with high abuse potential. So as a south Florida drug crimes defense attorney, I was interested to read about a federal investigation of six Walgreens pharmacies where sales of oxycodone have jumped dramatically. According to Reuters, the DEA announced April 6 that it has issued inspection warrants for a Walgreens distribution center in Jupiter, in Palm Beach County, and six stores it serves. The move came after the DEA had already suspended licenses to distribute controlled substances at three other pharmacies.

The warrants issued by the DEA are not criminal warrants that must be scrutinized by a judge for probable cause. Rather, they are inspection warrants issued for “valid public interest.” The DEA’s filing in Central Florida federal court says the agency is investigating the top-selling six pharmacies served by the Jupiter distribution center; those are Walgreens stores in Fort Myers, Oviedo, Port Richey, Hudson and two in Fort Pierce. The DEA, which keeps track of retail pharmacies’ sales of drugs with abuse potential, did not list any Walgreens stores in its list of top Florida purchasers in 2009. In 2011, however, the agency listed 38 Walgreens stores in its top 100 purchasers. In January and February of this year, that number jumped to 53 out of the top 100. The article noted that the Fort Myers store was responsible for two-thirds of all the oxycodone purchases in its ZIP code.

The DEA said this volume of oxycodone purchasing could indicate that the pharmacy serves addicted people and the pain clinics that serve them by writing shady prescriptions. With its warrants, the agency will be permitted to examine the pharmacies’ records to determine whether any of the drugs made it to the black market. The pharmacies may operate as normal during the investigation.

As a Miami-Dade federal crimes defense lawyer, I suspect this could be bad news for anyone who is involved in illegal misuse of prescription drugs. As the article notes, the DEA has been cracking down on this type of drug because it’s responsible for so many deaths — and recently, it has focused on enforcement at pharmacies and drug wholesalers that provide the drugs. From there, it’s often easy to track prescriptions in both directions — to the end users as well as to the doctors who prescribe the drugs. As a result, everyone in the supply chain would be well advised to expect a visit from federal authorities. Even those who have done nothing illegal may be subject to probing from authorities to see whether they have anything to hide. This could include overprescribing or unnecessary prescribing among doctors; avoiding reporting and limitations rules among pharmacists; and filling too many prescriptions among patients.

At Seltzer Law, P.A., we represent clients across Florida who are accused of serious state and federal drug crimes. That includes many of the crimes at issue in this article, such as illegal use of prescription drugs and breaking federal laws about dispensing controlled substances. Our lead attorney, David Seltzer, is an experienced former prosecutor with substantial experience handling drug cases of all kinds, including prescription drug abuse cases. Our Fort Lauderdale drugs and narcotics defense attorneys know that law enforcement doesn’t close up the office at 5 p.m. sharp, so we make ourselves available to clients and potential clients at all times — 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

If you’re facing charges related to oxycodone or any other prescription drug with high abuse potential, don’t wait to call Seltzer Law, P.A., for a free consultation. You can reach us through our website or call toll-free at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (1-888-843-3333).

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