UPDATE 1-DEA suspends a Cardinal substance-control license

Thu Nov 29, 2007 8:36pm EST

(Adds company comment, details)

NEW YORK Nov 29 (Reuters) - Drug wholesaler Cardinal Health Inc (CAH.N) said on Thursday the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration will suspend its license to distribute controlled substances from its Auburn, Washington, facility due to a failure to properly oversee hydrocodone sales.

The order received from the DEA said Cardinal "failed to maintain effective controls against the diversion of a particular controlled substance," and cited sale of hydrocodone to one pharmacy that allegedly dispensed excessive amounts of the powerful painkiller based on illegitimate prescriptions from Internet pharmacy Web sites, the company said.

The DEA informed the company that in excess of 600,000 dosage units of hydrocodone were sold by the one pharmacy from March 2007 to September 2007, Cardinal spokesman Jim Mazzola said.

Cardinal said the temporary suspension, which takes effect Dec. 3, affects only controlled-substance shipments from the one facility. The Auburn, Washington, distribution center will still be able to ship prescription medicines not classified as controlled substances to pharmacies and other customers.

Cardinal said steps were being taken to ensure continuity of service to its customers. The company will still be able to ship the affected drugs from other centers, Mazzola said.

The Dublin, Ohio-based company said it will cooperate fully with the DEA to resolve the suspension.

While Cardinal called the suspension temporary, Mazzola said it was not immediately clear how long it might remain in effect or what steps the company would have to take to resolve the issue.

Hydrocodone is an extremely addictive opiate pain medicine and has been associated with high levels of abuse. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot; Editing by Gary Hill)

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