The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Friday banned a Walgreens distribution center in Jupiter from dispensing controlled substances to its pharmacies in Florida and the East Coast, saying the business constituted an "imminent danger" to the public.
The DEA said that since 2009, the Jupiter distribution center has been the single-largest distributor of oxycodone products in Florida.
An immediate suspension order alleges that the distribution center did not have effective controls against the illegal use of controlled substances, the DEA said.
The suspension order alleges that the facility failed to conduct due diligence "to ensure that the controlled substances were not diverted into other than legitimate channels."
"The diversion of pharmaceutical-controlled substances is a great concern for the DEA," Mark R. Trouville, the special agent in charge of the Miami division, said in a statement.
"All DEA registrants have an obligation to ensure that medications are getting into the hands of legitimate patients, and when they choose to look the other way, patients suffer and drug dealers prosper," he stated.
In a statement issued Friday, Walgreens spokesman James W. Graham said, "We take our obligations under the Controlled Substances Act very seriously and are committed to ensuring the health of our customers and the communities in which we operate."
The action applies only to the Jupiter distribution center and suspends only the distribution of controlled substances.
"Our distribution center in Jupiter, Fla., will continue to be in operation to serve the needs of our pharmacies for noncontrolled prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications and general merchandise," Graham stated.
It was not immediately clear what impact, if any, the suspension order will have on Walgreens' customers who need controlled substances that would normally be dispensed from the Jupiter center.
The Jupiter facility is one of 12 Walgreens distribution centers, the DEA said. The DEA served an administrative inspection warrant at the facility in April, as well as at its top six retail pharmacies in Florida.
The DEA said that at about the same time the abuse of prescription drugs became an epidemic in Florida, Walgreens' Florida retail pharmacies, supplied by the Jupiter facility, "commanded an increasingly large percentage of the oxycodone business."
Graham said Walgreens has taken steps to enhance monitoring and reporting criteria.