Monday, November 20, 2017

DEA searches Florida Walgreens stores in painkiller investigation

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MIAMI — Federal drug agents have searched six Walgreens pharmacies and a company distribution center in Florida as part of an investigation into prescription painkiller drug abuse, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials said Friday.

The distribution center in Jupiter and the six pharmacies — one each in Hudson, Port Richey, Fort Myers and Oviedo and two in Fort Pierce — all showed signs of suspiciously high distribution of the drug oxycodone, a DEA investigator wrote in an affidavit for the search warrants.

Such large amounts, investigator Marjorie Milan wrote, indicate "a pharmacy that fills prescriptions issued by physicians at pain clinics and/or a pharmacy which services primarily drug-seeking individuals who abuse the medication." Oxycodone is highly addictive.

The searches for pharmacy records conducted Wednesday are the latest in a crackdown by federal and state authorities on "pill mills" and other illegal sources of prescription drugs in Florida, which has become the nation's leading source of oxycodone and similar drugs. The DEA says prescription drug abuse now exceeds abuse of all illegal drugs combined, except marijuana.

Michael Polzin, a spokesman for Walgreens, which is based in Deerfield, Ill., said it is cooperating in the investigation.

Earlier this year, the DEA moved to suspend the sale of similar controlled substances at two CVS pharmacies in the Orlando area. A federal appeals court recently upheld the suspension.

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