Cardinal settlement yields $16 million for DEA in mid-FL

Oct 7, 2008

Florida Health News–October 6, 2008

Cardinal Health’s pharmaceutical-distribution center in Lakeland, which lost the legal right to dispense controlled drugs ten months ago following a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation, will get its DEA license restored as part of a $34 million settlement by the company.

Late last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Cardinal had agreed to pay the civil penalty to settle accusations that it looked the other way on big orders for narcotic painkillers from Internet pharmacies.

DEA said seven of Cardinal’s 27 distribution centers across the nation were violating the Controlled Substances Act, but the one that handled the largest share of orders was the one in Lakeland, according to Steve Cole, a spokesman for the Justice Department in Tampa.

That’s why the Middle District of Florida will get nearly half of the settlement, he said — $16 million.
Other offices that will receive a share are in Southern Texas, $8 million; Western Washington state, $3.5 million; New Jersey, l$3 million; North Georgia, $1.5 million; and $1 million each to Central California and Colorado. The money will go into the federal Treasury to support other DEA operations, Cole said.

DEA Acting Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said in a press release that Cardinal had shown “negligent conduct (that) contributed to our nation’s serious pharmaceutical abuse problem.”

In a release in December 2007, the Justice Department announced it was cracking down on the Lakeland center after determining it was “an imminent danger to public health and safety.” The Lakeland center had distributed more than 8 million doses of hydrocodone, a popular prescription painkiller often sold under the brand name Vicodin, to “rogue pharmacies” on the Internet, the release said. Cardinal had failed to correct the problem despite a stern warning, the release said. The investigation covered August 2005 to October 2007.

"The Internet is now the main conduit in Florida through which prescription drugs are diverted for abuse,” the Justice Dept. release said. “This phenomenon has brought the street pusher into the home and endangered our youth.”
The settlement involved seven U.S. Attorney’s Offices. Cardinal Health Inc., one of the nation’s largest distributors of pharmaceuticals, is based in Dublin, Ohio.