After Years of Delay, Drug Enforcement Administration Revokes Drug Distributor License Over Opioid Crisis Failure – Wake Up Call

Joshua Goodman, Jim Mustian (Associated Press)

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Friday ruled it failed to issue a warning to thousands of suspicious orders in the midst of the opioid crisis, prompting the release of a highly addictive pain reliever from one of the nation’s largest drug distributors. The license to sell the drug was revoked.

A bankruptcy lawsuit against Morris & Dixon says the Drug Enforcement Administration will continue to ship drugs to the company for almost four years after a judge recommended the harshest penalties for the company’s “indiscreet disregard.” It took place two days after an Associated Press investigation found that it had allowed Regulations aimed at preventing opioid abuse.

The DEA acknowledged the time it took to reach a final decision was “longer than usual” for Morris & Dixon due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lengthy pursuit of a settlement. He blamed part of the delay in the procedure by asking for The agency said it was considering it. The order will take effect within 90 days, giving more time for settlement negotiations.

DEA Commissioner Ann Milgram said in a 68-page order that Morris & Dixon shipped an unusually high volume of 12,000 opioid orders to pharmacies and hospitals between 2014 and 2018. He said he did not accept full responsibility for his past actions. The DEA received only three suspicious order reports.

Milgram said the company’s compliance program was “very good” and believed that “no one was hurt by[their]drugs,” said then-President Paul Dixon Sr. in 2019. He specifically quoted the testimony.

“The statement of the president of a family-owned company goes far beyond the point of DEA registrant requirements,” she wrote. “The Company’s admission of liability does not demonstrate that the Company or its entities fully understood the full extent of their wrongdoing and the potential harm it caused.”

Based in Shreveport, Louisiana, Morris & Dixon’s roots go back to 1840 when its eponymous founder arrived from Wales and placed an ad in the local newspaper selling pharmaceuticals. Since then, the company has become the nation’s fourth largest pharmaceutical wholesaler, with annual sales of $4 billion, and he employs nearly 600 people in pharmacies and hospitals in 29 states.

The company said in a statement that it has invested millions of dollars over the past few years to revamp its compliance regime and appears to be hopeful of a settlement.

“Morris & Dixon is grateful to the DEA administrators for delaying the order’s effective date to allow time to resolve these old issues,” it said. “We are confident that we will achieve results that protect the supply chains of all our healthcare partners and the communities they serve. …Business will continue as normal and orders will be shipped on time. “

Morris & Dixon’s much larger competitors, three drug distributors known as the Big Three, have already agreed to pay more than $1 billion in fines and fines to the federal government for resolving similar violations. are doing. Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen and McKesson also agreed to pay $21 billion over 18 years to settle claims as part of a nationwide settlement.

Morris & Dixon wasn’t the only drug distributor the DEA accused of fueling the opioid crisis, but it was unique in seeking to challenge those charges before the DEA’s administrative court.

Administrative Law Judge Charles W. Dorman said in a scathing recommendation in 2019 that Morris & Dixon’s claim to have changed its ways was too little and too late.

Judges said that for lesser than the most severe punishments, “no matter how egregious, as long as you plead guilty and take an oath, a slap on the wrist will give you a second chance.” It will be passed on to DEA registrants.” sin no more. ”

But in the years that followed, neither Milgram, the Biden nominee, nor her two predecessors took any enforcement action. Her former DEA officials told her AP that such decisions typically take less than two years.

As the drugs continued to flow, Morris & Dixon sought to avoid punishment, appealing directly to Milgram to order the case reopened, and new evidence showing that it had implemented an “ideal” compliance program with the help of consultants. claimed to have provided evidence. Now the DEA’s deputy commander, Louis Milione. The DEA announced that Milione has stepped down from all agency work related to Morris & Dixon.

Milione retired from the DEA in 2017 after a 21-year career, including two years where he headed the division that controlled the sale of highly addictive drugs. Like dozens of colleagues in the DEA’s powerful but little-known Diversion Administration, he began working as a consultant for some of the same firms that had regulatory duties.

Milione was hired by Morris & Dixon in 2018 as part of a $3 million contract, after which the company overhauled its compliance systems, canceled suspicious orders and informed the DEA of its actions. He testified that he “spared no expense” to send daily e-mails stating that:

A footnote to Friday’s DEA order states that Milgram and others have been criticized for the Morris & Dixon case since Milione returned to the DEA as Chief Deputy Commissioner in 2021, citing his past involvement with Morris & Dixon. He said he had no contact with any officials.


Goodman reported from Miami and Mustian from New York. Please contact AP’s Global Investigative Team at After Years of Delay, Drug Enforcement Administration Revokes Drug Distributor License Over Opioid Crisis Failure – Wake Up Call

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