February 8, 2012 / 1:44 AM / 8 years ago

CVS gets restraining order in drug abuse probe

(Reuters) - A federal judge on Tuesday granted CVS Caremark Corp (CVS.N) a temporary restraining order allowing it to keep selling controlled prescription drugs at two Florida pharmacies at the center of raids by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, of U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said it was likely CVS would be able to show that the DEA failed to establish the “imminent danger to public health” necessary to suspend the pharmacies’ registrations.

On Saturday, the DEA raided two CVS stores in Sanford, about 30 miles south of Orlando, on the belief the stores were filling illegitimate prescriptions for the painkiller oxycodone.

CVS sought a temporary restraining order, saying it would suffer irreparable harm if forced to stop filling prescriptions at the pharmacies.

Judge Jackson agreed, saying once customers find a new pharmacy, “they are unlikely to come back.”

The judge also said CVS was likely to win on the underlying issue of whether its alleged misdeeds posed a serious public safety threat. CVS has already agreed to stop selling oxycodone and other so-called Schedule II drugs at the pharmacies while the case plays out before an administrative law judge, Jackson noted.

CVS said that last October the DEA served both pharmacies with warrants seeking documents related to oxycodone dispensing volumes. The agency also sought documents relating to certain prescribers.

CVS said it cooperated with the DEA and provided all requested information. Even so, the agency served the pharmacies with immediate suspension orders on Saturday that would have prevented them from filling prescriptions for any controlled substance. These might include painkillers, tranquilizers and stimulants.

The company said the DEA relied for its information on volume dispensed before October 2011, and that volumes at both stores in November and December decreased significantly. The DEA failed to identify any specific prescribers or prescriptions where there was evidence that the prescriber was not valid and registered by the DEA, CVS said.

For its part, the DEA said the pharmacies should have been suspicious because some of the doctors who had written prescriptions filled at the stores were the subjects of criminal, civil or administrative actions.

The restraining order comes on the heels of a similar order granted to Cardinal Health Inc (CAH.N) after the DEA on Friday tried to prevent it from selling any controlled substances from its facility in Lakeland, Florida. The DEA said four of Cardinal’s customers, including the two CVS stores, filled illegitimate prescriptions.

Cardinal agreed to stop supplying the pharmacies in question and won a restraining order letting it continue to ship products to its 5,200 or so accounts, pending a February 13 hearing.

Reporting By Toni Clarke in Boston and Nick Brown in New York, editing by Dave Zimmerman

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