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Federal Court Blocks DEA Effort to Close Florida Pharmacies

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #726)
Consequences of Prohibition
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

In its effort to prevent the diversion of prescription pain medications into the illicit market, the DEA moved last month to bar two Florida CVS drug stores from selling the drugs. But last Wednesday, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled the agency had gone too far and temporary blocked the DEA's order.

The case is Holiday CVS LLC v. Eric Holder, No. 12-5072.

The DEA had argued that the two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Florida, were inappropriately filling prescriptions for oxycodone, an opioid pain reliever that is widely used. The DEA also said there were "suspicious" sales of other controlled substances.

But CVS argued that the DEA's enforcement actions were "arbitrary and capricious," that it had already taken steps to address DEA concerns, and that it would suffer "irreparable harm" if not allowed to fill prescriptions for controlled substances at its pharmacies.

A federal district court judge had initially blocked the DEA order, but allowed it to take effect on last Tuesday. CVS immediately appealed the decision.

This is the second prescription medicine provider the DEA has gone after in this manner in Florida. Earlier, the agency issued an order to Cardinal Health Inc. to prevent it from selling prescription drugs from its warehouse facility in Lakeland, Florida. Cardinal Health's client pharmacies include the two Sanford CVS stores. Cardinal Health had already won a similar stay, but last Friday, the same DC appeals court upheld the DEA order.

The DEA has identified Florida as an epicenter of an "epidemic" of non-presciption use of opioid pain relievers and has moved aggressively against doctors it accused of operating "pill mills" in the state. Florida is the home of more than 500 pain clinics, down from more than 700 last year after the state tightened regulations on them this year.

DEA and CVS must file responses to the appeals court order next week. In the meantime, CVS can still fill prescriptions and its customers can still pick them up.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymusketeer (not verified)

Someone in the DEA wants us to see the idiocy in not allowing people access to their medicine of choice, so he put forth this effort--knowing it would be blocked as unreasonable, just as the crackdown on medical marijuana is unreasonable.

Either that, or they're just a bunch of idiots.

What to believe, what to believe . . .

Thu, 03/15/2012 - 10:41pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Legalize Cannabis and forget the pills . Some of `em anyway . A good strong indica will replace previous pain management techniques .

Fri, 03/16/2012 - 2:58am Permalink
dustin_turner_48 (not verified)

In reply to by kickback (not verified)

man i have been dealing with pain for years and i smoked a good indaca and it didn't help much just made me real paranoid i have paranoia problems and people like me cant smoke because of it so i do need pain meds otherwise i cant continue living my life i cant even walk without them so ya cant get rid of all pills and not everyone who takes them are druggies like the dea thinks and all this is bull shit no other country deals with this shit America has the worst pain management in the world because of the dea getting involved with doctor treatment of patients and i dont like taking them but i have to otherwise i am bed ridden and there is no weed strong enough to help me with that it may help you but there is a different pain management for every person and you need to be more open to that yes i agree weed needs to be legal for allot of reasons but its not the answer to everything    

Fri, 03/16/2012 - 5:59am Permalink
McDopestone (not verified)

In reply to by dustin_turner_48 (not verified)

Does your medical condition also prevent you from using punctuation?

Fri, 03/16/2012 - 12:42pm Permalink
SuLiKay (not verified)

In reply to by McDopestone (not verified)

There's always a smart ass to reply on something other than the topic!!!!!!!! Did I get my punctuation correct?

Tue, 08/21/2012 - 6:06pm Permalink
cunfused2the bone (not verified)

In reply to by dustin_turner_48 (not verified)

. As for the paranoia, well, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me, considering the illegality of the substance and the fact that it the smell of your breath and the look in your eyes ,body language, etc. actually makes it nearly impossible to hide. I have extensive personal knowledge both first and second hand of the addiction of pain pills and it is a fact that much of the pain of withdrawal is as bad or worse than the pain meant to relieve. I would ask you to ask yourself "do I need or do I want the pain pills" before I would believe that you can't find relief from weed. Sorry if this offends you, I assure you I have no reason to stress you out. 

Sun, 03/18/2012 - 11:48pm Permalink
annroc2004@sbc… (not verified)

In reply to by dustin_turner_48 (not verified)

I read your comment twice to make sure I understood your situation; yeah; if you have paranoia weed is not for your; for example if you smoke weed and then you are afraid of being busted or of side effects then forget about mmj; I would say this: Weed can actually make your condtion get better; helps your appetite ; Weed could actually rtreat and cure some of your symptoms as opposed ot pain mangement; Weed makes me feel better I have anorexia the eating disorder; weed makes me eat this is the the primary reason i use medical marijuana...

Thu, 03/22/2012 - 2:52pm Permalink
Sandra (not verified)

In reply to by dustin_turner_48 (not verified)

Dude, I totally agree with you.  The DEA is going after everyone because of the people who are abusing the pain medication.  If I don't take my pain meds, I will be on the couch 24/7.  Before my pain management Dr., I was just laying around like a bump on a log.  Now, I am up every morning and able to do things that I couldn't do before.  The DEA is going about this all wrong. They are punishing people who really need these meds to help them.  What do they think is going to happen?  People got on pain medication to help them.  Yea there are people abusing it in every way possible, but don't punish the people who are legit.  Do they think that after you are off the pain meds its going to be like magic, and poof im all fixed?  Not gonna happen.  People who need this medication are going to be at square one again. 

Mon, 02/25/2013 - 6:07pm Permalink
Citizen comment (not verified)

In reply to by kickback (not verified)

Actually, that's not 100% true.  Marijuana works as an effective pain reliever for some conditions and for other conditions (and patients), traditional opiates are more effective.  This is exactly why I do not donate to these types of groups.  Instead of pushing for an end to the drug war, period, they devolve into one issue campaigns, in this case for the legalization of marijuana.  Having talked to chronic pain patients and researched into chronic pain issues, I can state that marijuana is effective for some and not for others.  They should be free to choose what works best for them.  In other words, it should not be a crime to use certain substances without regard to the way in which they are used.  We are supposed to believe that we are free and yet, we cannot even determine which substances to put into our bodies.  What a joke.

The hype about opiates started with the Bush Administration and has continued into the present administration (probably because many Bush appointees are still around).  We are supposed to believe that everyone who takes pain pills winds up as a heroin addict or risks overdose.  Yet, when you compare the number of folks who are prescribed such drugs with the very low rates of heroin addicts and users (relative to users of other 'illicit' drugs), this argument simply doesn't add up.  Of course, overdose deaths make better news stories than anecdotes about people who are able to live more productive lives because they can use opiate medications to ameliorate their pain-related issues.

Tue, 03/20/2012 - 1:39am Permalink
dustin_turner_48 (not verified)

and screw the dea if people want to be druggies let them and let them overdose and die it would make the country a better place to get rid of them loser fucking people anyway good riddance i say who cares if someone sells their meds and someone dies its not their fault its the moron that took them so i say make everything legal and get rid of all the dumb asses that are going to die from overdose anyway 

Fri, 03/16/2012 - 6:04am Permalink
Yuven Tayclue (not verified)

Why is this news, or a controversy. Another wild goose chase for nothing. Florida is a retirement haven full of old, decrepit people in pain. Non-issue, non news. Pure government harassment. Get rid of all these useless federal agencies, and if not soon, then we should be thinking French Revolution / October 17th thoughts about them. They are not our friends.

Fri, 03/16/2012 - 2:32pm Permalink
BRIONE (not verified)

In reply to by Yuven Tayclue (not verified)


Thu, 07/05/2012 - 4:02am Permalink
Citizen comment (not verified)

Some of the above comments are the reason why I am reticent about fully supporting the so-called anti-drug war groups.  The typical mantra is that pills are bad and marijuana is good.  The reality is that people should have the right to any substances so long as they are using them responsibly.  Chronic pain patients are completely left out of the debate on the war on drugs.  If "big pharma" were really behind the push to make pain medications more available, the big pharmaceutical companies could probably put enough money into political campaigns to direct the DEA's attention elsewhere.  Yet, the DEA, since the latter days of the Bush jr. Administration, has focused much of its attention on so-called prescription drug abuse, with the help of a complicit media, which has hyped a few overdose deaths (among millions of users who never have any problems).  I've never seen a pain patient interviewed on television who benefits from the opiate drugs or a televised discussion about the millions of people who use them responsibly without managing to overdose on them.  Indeed, opium has been used medicinally at least as long as marijuana and arguably much longer. 

The fact is that most narcotic or opiate pain pills have been around for so long that they can be bought cheaply as generics.  If anything, "big pharma" would like to have these opiate drugs outlawed so they can push newer nonopoid-based drugs which bring in bigger profits, because generics are not available.  For example, Celebrex (or take your pick), a non-opiate drug, costs several times as much as say, Vicodin, which has been around for a while and is available as a cheap generic drug. 

Tue, 03/20/2012 - 1:22am Permalink
Fl pain patien… (not verified)

The above comments all have merit.However the laws passed by the republican controlled house, senate, and Governor,are now taking effect. Our elected official promised to get government regulation out of our private lives: What could be more private and personal than health care, your doctor, and your pain? I thought they learned with the Sheivo case:The government has no place between the doctor/patient relationship.Law enforcement needs to find another revenue stream. I predict deadly force will be used in a physicians office within the next few months in Florida. Pain patients (6 to 7 out of every 10 of us) are told their pain is either mental (good luck getting that covered in Florida) but most likely: suddenly after being maintained successfully on a modest amount of meds for decades allowing for productive lives, your doctor turns to you and accuses you of drug and addiction issues and tosses you out of the practice.At least be honest with your patient. Do not shame them. This only adds to the alarming suicide rate in our state for non treated and under-treated pain. [During Gov Jeb Bush Administration, those stats stopped being collected.] Explain to your patient that you went to medical (other related fields) school because you were passionate about helping pain and suffering in the world. Tell them of your amazement that the legislature and Governor, and their agents(law enforcement) now are the only ones allowed to diagnose and treat their pain.Go vote. Tell them why. Pain patients ARE the majority in Florida.You are NOT criminals.  

Thu, 03/22/2012 - 2:46pm Permalink
RebeccaSampson (not verified)

There a so many legitimate pain sufferers in Florida who can not find a doctor willing to treat them because the doctors are afraid to. I moved here from Ohio, I have been in pain management because of a connective tissue disease that is eroding my bones. I have a collagen disorder that allows my joints to slide out of socket, causing arthritis and recently a serious fracture on my femoral head, due to my hips sliding out of socket so often. Yeah, this condition also affects my skin, organ tissues, my eyes, my veins... Every bit of tissue within my body. It hurts to walk, sit, stand, and lay down. I only want to live my life like a normal person. I'm holding out on a hip replacement because I am so young, and they don't last very long. My doctor told me that if I got a hip replacement in my early 20's, that I'd most likely have to get 2 or even 3 more before within my lifetime because they wear out... So, I'm taking a risk, by waiting, and walking around on a broken hip. My shoulders, knees, wrists, fingers, ankles, and SI joint (lower back) can come out of socket; at random. I have neurapathy, bilateral carpal tunnel, painful arthritis in my hands, feet, knees, shoulders, and ofcourse both of my hips. I also fall down onto the concrete 1-2 every month and smack my head and body, everytime I have a grand mal seizure. I can't take any arthritis medication anymore because I was originally prescribed mobic and a few others without knowing the risk of developing a severe seizure disorder, that has continued (so far 2 years), after stopping. I have not been able to find a doctor who can help me with my pain. I'm limping around in agonizing pain because these doctors are afraid to treat thier own patients. I was told that cancer patients are the only patients that doctors will treat for pain. I am glad they help at least one group of pain sufferers, however there are so many other types of pain. It is such a waste of time to go after doctors to this extent. Since the DEA can see and track which doctors are abusing thier prisciption pad, by looking it up. Are these new laws even necessary? Please tell me how the DEA can arbitrarily decide how much of a medication is sent to legit licensed pharmacies? How was the amount even considered or formulated? I'm wondering how this even happened? The DEA is NOT cracking down on pill mills or illegal drug sales. They are harassing pharmacies and Doctors. Why? Obviously the DEA knows what's best for us. They know more than any of our doctors, exactly what each patient needs. Legal loopholes exist for the pillmills there are new ones beginning to pop up. I'd much rather see a legit doctor, but the alternative is beginning to leave me without another option. That alternative being a life of misery. I've been without any pain medication for weeks. I am disabled because of the seriousness of my condition, yeah this young too. More than anything I'd like to return to the work force. I've scheduled my surgery and I'm noticing that my left hip is showing similiar symptoms of a fracture due to the extra weight I've put on it (Im not obese at 125lbs). I am trading my hips including less surgeries for temporary post op medication. Pot is illegal here guys. I'm not trying to go to a Florida prison. The situation is out of control. By the way NSAIDs are extremely dangerous. Opiates have been administered for thousands of years. Not once have I ever heard of anyone suffering from even a heroine addiction to have seizures long after stopping, or the serious neurological issues and all these other permanent side affects. When Oxycotin was outlawed it killed 800 people the year prior, NSAIDs on the other hand killed almost 17,000 people during the same year. Synthetic drugs are protected, pushed, commercialized, and they're America's real sweet-heart. Watch out! Take caution please I tried the non-narcotic route, look where it got me.
Wed, 05/02/2012 - 7:43am Permalink
LilBit (not verified)

I am in physical torment 24/7. My pain is through the roof from neck and back injuries, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Osteo arthritis, etc. Not knowing if I will ever get better leaves me in a horrible state of mind. I've been treated so badly by Doctors I hate to go every month. I am treated like a common criminal, I am being punished because I can't function with out pain medicine. Finally the pain management doctor got me to a point that I could function for 6 to 8 hours a day. The pain never goes away completely, but even getting down to a six on a pain chart of one to ten, ten being the highest is a great relief. Now I cannot fill my prescriptions for pain. I don't know what is to come. I can't get help or answers from anyone in health care. My quality of life is at a zero, my pain is excruciating all the day, sleep is my only relief and I am awaken by pain several times a night. I am not a quiter but I need help and guidance. I've got to find a way to get my prescriptions filled. I've heard of mail ordering prescriptions, however, I don't know who can be trusted.Any advice, help, guidance is welcome. Thank you. LilBit.....

Fri, 06/22/2012 - 10:23am Permalink
chronicpain2222 (not verified)

Liibit, I feel your frustration and helplessness. I too have chronic pain, same Dr for over 2 years, same pharmacy for 2 years. I submit to monthly drug tests, always bring med bottle for pill count, and tow the line. 2 months ago I drove to over 40+ pharmacys to be turned away and treated like a junkie. I'm a 51 y/o woman, wife and mother. I'm fully aware of the danger this drug poses if in the wrong hands. I speak to no one but my husband and Dr about my use of medication. I went 2 wks last month with no medication. I finally wemt back to pain mgt Dr who switched me to something else. The pharmacist would only fill 90 of the 150 I was prescribed. I had to forfeit the rest. Im outraged, and to top it off, the new med makes me nauseous and drowsy. I'm at my wits end, I've e mailed my representative, Senator and governor. No response. It obvious no one cares about legitimate chronic pain sufferers. You can find a good pain mgt Dr in FL. I would trust mine with my life. He's compassionate, and the only one I trust to give me epidurals. It's the pharmacys that don't want to fill med. I've heard everything from I'm not comfortable filling this.. to good luck with that, to we're not taking new patients. Hello! I was filling at one of the biggest chains for 2 yrs. Yet I go a mile away to the same chain, and they're not taking new patients. Between the dea and the fda, this will affect all of us permanently. I've done a lot of research on this, and everywhere I turn, there's a road block. It blows my mind I have a legit prescription from a legit Dr and every month it's a nightmare. Good luck and God Bless
Mon, 07/02/2012 - 9:56pm Permalink
Dan S (not verified)

I have a valid, legal prescription from a licensed doctor & I was told yesterday by the pharmacist at the Publix where I have been filling my prescriptions for years that though they will still be stocking my meds they will be unable to fill mine because in the words of the pharmacist"Publix doesn't want us doing this anymore. I won't go into all my physical problems but they are vast. I will be looking into legal action as I believe the pharmacist has a duty to fill my prescription s or at the very least give me a better explanation than this.
Sat, 11/03/2012 - 2:29pm Permalink

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